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Forms and potential effects of citizen participation in European cultural centres

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This article proposes a framework for understanding citizen participation in European cultural centres. Europe has thousands of cultural centres with many millions of annual visitors and actively involved citizens. Citizen participation is a core value of the centres but has, like the centres themselves, been under-researched. The article presents a participatory research and action project that was part of the programme for the Danish city of Aarhus as a European Capital of Culture in 2017: RECcORD: Rethinking Cultural Centres in a European Dimension (2015-17). In RECcORD, we researched citizen participation as a method: with networking employees or ‘citizen scientists’ from centres across Europe; and as an object: as practices and understandings of participation at the centres. Based on an inductive research methodology, we offer a typology of the forms and potential effects of citizen participation in the centres. We identify six forms: attention, education, co-creation, co-habitation, publics and co-decision; and nine potential effects: aesthetic intensity, feeling of togetherness, social inclusion, wellbeing, learning, empowerment, cultural/political reflection, local development and sustainability. We further suggest a definition of participation in the centres and argue for the importance of exploring both ‘vertical’ power and ‘horizontal’ communities when aiming at an understanding of citizen participation in cultural centres and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
JournalParticipations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies
Pages (from-to)205-228
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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