’Seeing like a Citizen’: Power, Participation, and Strategies for Citizen Engagement


Thursday, April 21, 2011, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

John GaventaJohn Gaventa, Professor, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

Visiting Fellow, Ash Center
A light lunch will be served.
RSVP: jesse_ledin@hks.harvard.edu

About the Seminar
Over the last decade citizen participation has often been seen as a panacea both for deepening democracy as well as for achieving international development goals. But under what circumstances does participation change or challenge power relations? In a rapidly changing world, how do we understand and analyze power in order to build more effective strategies for citizen engagement?

In this seminar, John Gaventa, the author of the award-winning book Power and Powerlessness (1980), will share his more recent approaches to understanding power, and discuss their implications for civic engagement (www.powercube.net). To illustrate his arguments, Gaventa will draw upon recent work of the Development Research Center on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, a 10-year research program on how citizens mobilize to claim their rights, which has produced over 150 case studies of citizen engagement in 20 countries, largely in the global south (www.drc-citizenship.org). Among other publications, Gaventa has recently completed an analysis of 100 of these case studies to gather evidence on what difference citizen participation makes to democratic and development goals and under what conditions.

About John Gaventa
For the past 15 years, Dr. Gaventa has served as a fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in England where he is also director of the Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation, and Accountability. Previously he was director of the Highlander Centre in Tennessee, a non-governmental organization with over 75 years of experience working on poverty and social justice issues in the United States. He also currently serves as chair of the Council of Trustees at Oxfam Great Britain, one of the country’s largest international non-governmental organizations.

He has written widely on issues of power, participation, development, and democracy. His most recent publications include Globalizing Citizen Engagements (2010) co-editor with Rajesh Tandon and Citizen Action and National Policy Reform (2010) co-editor with Rosemary McGee. He is also series editor of the eight volume series Claiming Citizenship: Rights, Participation and Accountability (Zed Books: 2004-10). His first book, Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley (1980), won four major prizes, including the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award from the American Political Science Association. On April 14, 2011, Tufts University presented him with the 2011 Tisch Civic Engagement Research Prize. The award recognizes distinguished scholarship on civic learning, citizen participation and engaged research (http://activecitizen.tufts.edu/?pid=1098).

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.