The Canada Research Chair in Participation and Citizenship(s) seeks to explore the links between forms of participation and the individual, collective and relational trajectories of the construction of citizenship(s) from a comparative perspective.

The objective is to better understand from a theoretical point of view the institutional and emerging forms of participation, and their interactions with the processes of inclusion and (re)definition/transformation of the boundaries of this citizenship.

The Research Chair's program can be divided into three main areas, around which the work of the Chair's team is organized: 1) citizenship and participatory policies, namely formal state instruments of citizen participation and their effects on inclusion and exclusion processes within citizenship regimes; 2) informal participation and the (re)definition of modes of social inclusion—essentially, non-institutionalized, less organized and more spontaneous or even individualized forms of citizen participation—that nonetheless constitute a mode of inclusion in political processes; and 3) participation, citizenship(s) and international norms, which is concerned with the implementation of international norms and their effect on participatory practices and spaces at the domestic level.

Research program

For the past twenty years or so, societies have been marked by a prescription for direct citizen participation—whether in so-called advanced or more recent democracies, or even in authoritarian regimes—when the imperative of participation intervenes in parallel with the following: a discourse of re-legitimation of institutions, a consolidation and deepening of democratic practices and, even more, a move toward greater social inclusion, a widening access to citizenship rights and a redefinition of membership in political communities. The boundaries of what have been called the citizenship regimes of contemporary societies are shaped by a relational process in which institutional, political and social actors interact within institutions, in particular participatory institutions which include 1) the laws, rules and norms framing participatory practices, 2) the formal and institutional mechanisms that make it possible to translate these rules, and 3) the informal modes of participation, as well as participatory practices, both individual and unorganized. These participatory spaces and practices structure the relationship between state, social and political actors and at least partially define the modalities of access to the state.


Citizenship and participatory policies

The research question driving this axis is as follows: what are the effects of institutionalized participatory policies on relations between the state and society and, consequently, on the construction and definition of the contours of inclusion/exclusion within citizenship regimes? This axis focuses on the policies and institutional mechanisms of citizen participation put in place by or with governments (local, regional or national) to facilitate the participation of citizens in the formulation—and in some cases in the implementation—of public policies. These mechanisms include participatory budgets, participatory urban planning mechanisms, community and participatory security policies, and more broadly speaking, national citizen participation policies. This line of research focuses on the impact of institutional participation mechanisms on the construction of citizenship(s) and inclusion (economic and social), their interactions with spaces of protest and social movements, and their logic of transformation and institutionalization.


Informal participation and the (re)definition of modes of social inclusion

The second research axis is driven by a desire to go beyond the institutional and formal conception of citizen participation in order to better understand the meaning and effects of emerging and less well understood forms of participation in democracies that are sometimes said to be in crisis, or are weakly consolidated. These emerging forms of participation, not necessarily coordinated, are more or less ad hoc and relate to specific issues outside institutions and organizations. They are often associated with lifestyle politics, especially in an urban setting, and often take the form of participatory interventions by actors in the public space (street art, greening, spontaneous urbanization). While these forms of participation are not always driven by political demands a priori, the interactions and practices of citizens among themselves and with actors in their environment around daily issues can contribute to their politicization or, conversely, to their individual and collective depoliticization and can thus produce social change. The work of this axis therefore revolves around the following questions: what meaning (political or not) do these emerging forms of participation acquire (or are given)? Moreover, what is the link between individual collective action and more conventional forms of participation? Finally, how do these new forms of participation intervene in the trajectories of citizenship construction, both at the individual and collective level?


Participation, citizenship(s) and international norms

The third axis is driven by a desire to better understand emerging participatory international norms implementation mechanisms, and their impact on the construction of local participatory spaces and practices and on individual and collective citizenship trajectories. The main research project in this axis examines the implementation of consultation policies and guidelines and the requirement of free, prior and informed consent, which places the right to participation of Indigenous peoples at the core of states’ decisions concerning the extraction of natural resources in their territories. The FPIC standard itself, however, is subject to interpretation, and remains contested. This axis revolves around the following question: how do emerging participatory international norms translate into both institutional and informal participatory practices? More broadly, how do these norms and the participatory and protest practices that are built around it shape the construction of citizenship trajectories?