Assemblies: Modern Rituals

How do we assemble, negotiate, debate or deliberate, and sometimes come to a political compromise between people with widely divergent views ? How can our differences – some of them seemingly irreconcilable – enable discussion and engender solutions for collectively-faced challenges ?

Assemblies form when people are divided by matters of concern and want to come to some kind of provisional (dis)agreement. Building both on deliberative and agonistic theories, our inquiry seeks to explore how we can form a political community.

This three-year-long experimentation project brings together researchers and practitioners from a variety of fields to examine what exactly happens when we assemble by delving inside the “black box” of collective deliberation.

More specifically, the project focuses on the necessary conditions for inclusive deliberations and the emergence of collective wisdom, the epistemic benefits of diversity and its influence on the quality of deliberation and the transformation of opinions, the civic effects of assemblies, the role of emotions and affects, as well as the place of dissensus in deliberation processes.

Finally, the projects seeks to understand the relation between the spaces and forms of assemblies and the knowledge and relations they produce. In other words, how does the way people gather shape their thinking and actions in turn?

In order to explore these questions, we will organise a series of citizen assemblies on important legal or policy issues. Researchers, activists, architects, and artists will jointly work to develop the questions, forms, and protocols for the experimentations.

A public event – a final assembly or a symposium – will be organised after the experimentation phase, in order to further discuss the questions both from scientific and citizen perspectives, as well as to connect the experiment with other similar democratic innovation initiatives.

In times of increasing social polarisation and distrust in traditional political institutions, the Evens Foundation wants to contribute to the burgeoning public debate on the ways of opening up and reviving democratic processes and forms of civil dialogue.