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Contested Democracy:

Démocratie contestée

Contestation and Participation in the English-speaking World

Contestation et participation dans le monde anglophone

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Published on Monday, June 04, 2012


The dissent and uprisings that spread through the Arab world during the Spring of 2011 occurred almost a quarter of a century after the fall of East European political régimes that saw the rise of "democracy" modeled on the Anglo-American representative system. This specific context which has come to characterize the past quarter of century calls for a renewed analysis of the models these political systems represent and of the processes that triggered them and led to their long-term establishment in the UK and the US.Since the 1990s, as a response to the story of the inevitable emergence of democracy in the aftermath of the Cold War, researchers on North American politics have provided an alternative reading of events: that of a "contested democracy".



1.30-2.00pm - Welcome address and opening remarks
  • 2.00-3.00pm - Keynote 1 - Gary Gerstle
    Democracy and Money in America, 1840-1940

Session 1 - Thursday 20 September 2012 - 3.00-4.30pm

A. Early Democracy: Multiple meanings, conflicting practices

Grand amphi - Chair Johann Neem

  • Peter Gurney - The Democratic idiom: Languages of democracy in Britain, 1830-1848                                                     
  • Mark Philp - Between word and deed: Languages of democracy/practices of participation: England from 1789-1850
  • Reeve Huston - Rethinking 1828: The emergence of competing democracies in the United States

B. Twists & Turns of Democracy

Petit amphi - Chair Myriam Boussabah-Bravard

  • Andrew Robertson - Democracy: America's other Peculiar Institution
  • Claire Ceruti - Cycles of contestation: The maturing contradictions in the Zuma movement in South Africa
  • Yann Beliard - The forward march of Labour in Kingston-upon-Hull (1884-1939): a tortuous and ambivalent breakthrough

Session 2 - Thursday 20 September 2012 - 5.00-6.30pm

C. Critical Perspectives on Free Market Democracy

Grand amphi  - Chair Martine Azuelos

  • Scott Fitzgerald - Movements, policy and protest: Challenging economic inequality in the US and the UK                                   
  • Pierre Guerlain - Democracy Inc. in the US
  • Jean-Baptiste Velut - Toward a new progressive era? Reformist and radical forms of advocacy in the age of plutocracy

D. Activists across Borders

Petit amphi - Chair Yann Beliard

  • Yohanna Alimi - Weaving a transatlantic feminist network: The impact of the French revolution of 1848 on the American contest for women's rights
  • Daniel Prosterman - Global democratic visions: Electoral reform activism in the early twentieth century
  • Jim Cohen - Defending the rights of undocumented immigrants and contesting the boundaries of national citizenship in the US

Session 3 - Friday 21 September 2012 - 9.00-10.30am

E. Who Governs?/Who Participates?

Grand amphi - Chair Pauline Schnapper

  • David Fée - Planning for housing in the UK: The contradictions of democracy
  • Houari Mired - Democratic renewal in the English regions since 1994. Why is governance (still) contested?                                                    
  • Coralie Rafenne - Multi-level governance, managerial ideology and the myth of citizen participation in the EU

F. Democracy at Work

Petit amphi - Chair Evelyne Payen

  • Christine Zumello - Crafted democracy in the USA? 'Vote, invest  and express yourself'
  • Sheena Raja - A faux-public sphere: marketing online conversation economies for citizen consumers
  • Jean-Christian Vinel - The Right-to-Work: The American Right and the struggle against industrial democracy, 1941-1958
  • 11.00-12.00pm - Keynote 2 - Paul Bagguley
    Crisis, Democracy, Protest: reflections on the British case

SESSION 4 - Friday 21 September 2012 - 2.00-3.30pm

G. Alternative Spaces of Public Expression

Grand amphi - Chair Divina Frau-Meigs

  • Guillaume Marche - Local democracy and contested public space: San Francisco and the politics of graffiti   
  • Emmanuelle Avril - Social networks and democracy in the English-speaking world: Counterculture or mainstream?
  • Andrew Perrin - Letters to the Editor: Demographic and cultural contours of a mediated public sphere

H. Vested Interest Democracy

Petit amphi - Chair Romain Garbaye

  • Daniel Carpenter - Anxieties of Soliciting Empire: Transformations of the Petition across Languages and Peoples in the Saint Lawrence Valley and the Gulf of Maine, 1740-1840
  • Romain Huret - No representation without taxation! Businessmen against federal taxation from the Progressive Era to the New Deal
  • Marie-Claire Considère-Charon - Identifying a democratic deficit in Ireland: Focus on institutional and constitutional issues

Session 5 - Friday 21 September 2012 - 4.00-5.30pm

I. Productive Protest

Grand amphi - Chair Hélène Le Dantec

  • Sandrine Tolazzi - Channeling indigenous contestation of uranium mining in Australia: Legislation, negotiation, co-optation
  • Pauline Peretz - Common cause: A democratic organization of distrust vis-à-vis the State in post civil rights America
  • Sarah Pickard - Productive protest? The contested higher education reforms in England (2010-2012)

J. Leaders & Citizens

Petit amphi - Chair Fabrice Bensimon

  • Joanna Innes - Democracy and demagoguery in the British Isles, 1700-1850
  • Daniel Foliard - The lion of Nineveh: Henry Layard, radicalism and the reflections of fallen Empires
  • Paul Blokker - A comparative engagement with dissent and constitutionalism

Session 6 - Saturday 22 September 2012 - 9.30-11.00am

K. Representative vs Direct Democracy

Grand amphi - Chair Emmanuelle Avril

  • Geoffrey Pleyers -  Contesting or complementing representative democracy? Experiments and tensions in the alter-globalization and indignados/occupiers movements                                 
  • Jacques-Henri Coste - The contested terrains of digital democracy, open source innovation, and intellectual property in the US:  The PIPA and SOPA Case
  • Isabelle Sinic-Bouhaoula - Conservatism and direct democracy in California: Questioning the legacy of progressivism

L. Creative Destruction?

Petit amphi - Chair Christine Zumello

  • Gary Anderson, Geoff Bright,Gillian Whiteley- `What rough beast...? Monstrous practices of dissent and the ends of conviviality
  • Christos Efstathiou - The ideological roots of the Battle of Cable Street
  • Valérie Peyronel - The 1998 Agreement and its consequences: contested democracy in post-conflict Northern Ireland
  • 11.30-12.30pm - Keynote 3 - Jennifer Lees-Marshment
    Partners not protesters? Managing contests to traditional democracy through expanded public input into political decision making

 Closing remarks

Adding informations

  • Conference papers will be given in English / Les communications seront en anglais
  • Registration fee :  20 euros payable by French cheque or by cash, free for students  

  • To download the registration form for delegates go to conference webpage.
  • To register or obtain further information please send an email to: Contested-democracy@univ-paris3.fr

Speakers / Intervenants

  • Yohanna Alimi, PhD student, Teaching Fellow, American Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France  
  • Dr Gary Anderson, Lecturer in Contemporary Performance, Free University of Liverpool / Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, UK
  • Professor Emmanuelle Avril, British Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France 
  • Dr Yann Béliard, British Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France
  • Dr Paul Blokker, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Trento, Italy
  • Geoff Bright, Researcher, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  • Professor Daniel Carpenter, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, USA
  • Claire Ceruti, PhD student, University of Johannesburg, associated with the South African Research Chair in Social Change, SA
  • Professor Jim Cohen, American Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France
  • Professor Emeritus, Marie-Claire Considère-Charon, British and Irish Studies, Université de Franche-Comté, France
  • Dr Jacques-Henri Coste, Associate Professor, American Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France
  • Christos Efstathiou, PhD student, Department of History, Classics & Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London , UK
  • Dr David Fée, Senior Lecturer, British Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France  
  • Dr Scott T. Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA
  • Dr Daniel Foliard, Postdoctorate Researcher and Sessional Lecturer in History, Paris-Sorbonne University, France
  • Professor Pierre Guerlain, American Studies, Université Paris Ouest  La Défense, (CREA - EA370), France
  • Dr Peter Gurney, Senior  Lecturer, Department of History, University of Essex, UK
  • Dr Romain Huret, Associate Professor, American Studies, University of Lyon 2 / Institut  Universitaire de France, (Cena, IUF), France
  • Dr Reeve Huston, Associate Professor, Department of History, Duke University, USA
  • Joanna Innes, MA, Fellow and Tutor  in Modern History, Somerville College, University of Oxford, UK
  • Dr Guillaume Marche, Associate Professor, American Studies, Université Paris-Est Créteil, (IMAGER - EA3958), France  
  • Dr Houari Mired, Teaching Fellow, British Studies, Université Paris Est Créteil, France
  • Dr Pauline Peretz, Assistant Professor, History, Université de Nantes, Researcher, Centre d'études nord-américaines  (Cena / EHESS), France
  • Dr Andrew J. Perrin, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
  • Professor Valérie Peyronel, British and Irish Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France  
  • Dr Mark Philp, Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Oriel College, University of Oxford, UK
  • Dr Sarah Pickard, Senior Lecturer, British Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France
  • Dr Geoffrey Pleyers, Research Associate, Sociology, FNRS and UCL, (CADIS-EHESS), Belgium
  • Dr Daniel O. Prosterman, Assistant Professor, History, Salem College, USA
  • Dr Coralie Raffenne, Senior Lecturer, British Studies Université d'Orléans, France
  • Sheena Raja, PhD student, Media Studies, Rutgers University, USA, Intern, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, USA.
  • Professor Andrew W. Robertson, Deputy Executive Officer, History Ph.D. Program, The CUNY Graduate Center , USA
  • Dr Isabelle Sinic-Bouhaouala, American Studies, Researcher, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, (CREW - EA4399), France  
  • Dr Sandrine Tolazzi, Associate Professor, Anglophone Studies, Université Stendhal-Grenoble 3, (CEMRA - EA3016), France
  • Dr Jean-Baptiste Velut, Associate Professor, American Studies, Université Paris Est Marne La Vallée, (CREW - EA4399), France
  • Dr Jean-Christian Vinel, Associate Professor, American Studies, Université Paris Diderot, France
  • Dr Gillian Whiteley, Senior Lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies, Loughborough University, UK
  • Dr Christine Zumello, Associate Professor, American Studies, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, (CREW - EA4399), France

Conference organisers: / Comité d'organisation :

  • Yohanna Alimi (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW OPA),
  • Emmanuelle Avril (Sorbonne-Nouvelle, CREW Axe 1),
  • Yann Béliard (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 3),
  • Jacques-Henri Coste (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CERVEPAS),
  • Divina Frau-Meigs (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 2),
  • Romain Garbaye (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 3),
  • Hélène Le Dantec (Sorbonne ouvelle, CREW CRAN),
  • Anne-Claire Lévy (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW OPA),
  • Valérie Peyronel (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CERVEPAS),
  • Sarah Pickard (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CREC),
  • Naomi Wulf (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW OPA).

Scientific Committee: / Comité scientifique :

  • Emmanuelle Avril (Sorbonne-Nouvelle, CREW Axe 1),
  • Paul Bagguley (Leeds University, UK),
  • Yann Béliard (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 3),
  • Jacques-Henri Coste (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CERVEPAS),
  • Divina Frau-Meigs (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 2),
  • Romain Garbaye (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW Axe 3),
  • Hélène Le Dantec (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CRAN),
  • Johann Neem (Western Washington University, USA),
  • Valérie Peyronel (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CERVEPAS),
  • Sarah Pickard (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW CREC),
  • Andrew Robertson (Graduate Center, CUNY, USA),
  • Naomi Wulf (Sorbonne Nouvelle, CREW OPA).


The dissent and uprisings that spread through the Arab world during the Spring of 2011 occurred almost a quarter of a century after the fall of East European political régimes that saw the rise of "democracy" modeled on the Anglo-American representative system. This specific context which has come to characterize the past quarter of century calls for a renewed analysis of the models these political systems represent and of the processes that triggered them and led to their long-term establishment in the UK and the US.Since the 1990s, as a response to the story of the inevitable emergence of democracy in the aftermath of the Cold War, researchers on North American politics have provided an alternative reading of events: that of a "contested democracy". The CREW Paris-based research group is organising an international conference in order to reflect on the notion of  "contested democracy" and its role in understanding democracy as theory and practice. In inviting a critical evaluation of this now commonly used phrase, the conference wishes to open up a wide-range of approaches and discourses relating to democracy in the English-speaking world, from individual expression to collective action, from infra-political practices to more explicit forms of dissent, from within political organisations or large-scale social movements, and including local democracy and debates on community-building and social cohesion. This conference is aimed at specialists on the Anglo-American world (and beyond, on the English-speaking world) who are interested in these questions from either an historical or contemporary perspective. The purpose of this conference is to encourage comparative analysis on participation, contest and contestation, as well as on phenomena such as adaptation and self-appropriation which characterize the exchange and transfer of ideas that can be observed in the different national contexts of the English-speaking world.

When popularising the notion of "contested democracy", historians and political scientists have underlined how democratic progress andthe resulting democratic structures of the UK and US were borne of fiercely fought battles. Democracy's establishment has been the result of a jerky evolution beset by setbacks and victories, rather than a smooth and incremental evolution towards a presumed endpoint. The emphasis has thus been laid on the pluralism of a liberal system where successive claims and demands from the"excluded" within civil society have highlighted their rights to be included and to participate.

Whilst this is the main meaning of the phrase "contested democracy", this conference seeks also to reflect more widely on how contestation has been expressed and continues to be articulated within a dominant political model. Beyond the classic expressions of contestation anddissent, such as demonstrations, revolutions and civil disobedience, there are many other forms emanating from the public realm and from civil society as awhole, which aim to reinvent the very notion of democracy. The area of studyfor the conference need not be limited to the traditional opposition between"the street " and "the rulers", although the events of the Arab Spring clearly invite us to rethink this relationship. It would also beinteresting to deal with attempts made by political regimes to preempt contestor contestation via consultative mechanisms or local partnerships, as was thecase for example in the UK during the New Labour governments. Furthermore, therealm of private contestation can include the business world and alternative participation made accessible by digital communication. By definition, thenotion of "contested democracy" also invites us to consider participation and contestation in conjunction, and to envisage forms of"counter democracy" (Pierre Rosanvallon), borne of defiance towardsso-called democratic structures yet simultaneously bearing the risk of endangering the very existence of the political community. In this way, depending on the context and the usage, new technologies and the new structures with which they are associated can become either tools for contestation or instruments for social cohesion.

The conference aims at providing an overview and assessment of current research on new and innovative forms of participation in the English-speaking world, both in the contemporary period and in history, with an emphasis on alternative and critical approaches to power.
  • local sphere, civil society
  • political parties, social movements, associations
  • communications, networks, new social media
  • cultural diversity, identity politics and mobilisation
  • governance, influence of public-private actors
  • sources of social cohesion in pluralist democratic societies...


Une vingtaine d'années après la chute des régimes en Europe de l'Est et l'avènement de la « démocratie », où le modèle représentatif anglo-américain en particulier a été mis à l'honneur, et alors que les soulèvements du printemps 2011 se sont multipliés dans les pays du monde arabe, nous sommes incités à réfléchir de manière renouvelée aux modèles que représentent ces systèmes, aux processus qui ont permis leur mise en œuvre et à ce qui les fait perdurer. Face à l'histoire d'une démocratie inéluctable héritée notamment de la Guerre froide, les spécialistes des Etats-Unis proposent depuis les années 1990 une lecture alternative, celle d'une « contested democracy ». Ce colloque organisé par l'équipe CREW (Center for Research on the English-speaking World) de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 invite à revenir sur cette notion et ses implications pour la compréhension du phénomène démocratique et, partant, sur l'ensemble des approches et débats qui traversent le monde anglophone, autour des actions ou des prises de parole individuelles comme collectives, de l'infra-politique aux mouvements contestataires, en passant par la démocratie locale et les débats sur la communauté et la cohésion sociale. Il s'adresse aux spécialistes du monde anglo-américain, et plus généralement du monde anglophone, qui s'intéressent à ces questions dans leur dimension historique et plus contemporaine. Il vise à encourager une réflexion comparative sur la participation et la contestation, ainsi que sur les phénomènes de traduction et de réappropriation qui caractérisent les échanges et les transferts d'idées que l'on observe entre les différents contextes nationaux de l'espace anglophone.

En popularisant la notion de « contested democracy », les historiens et politologues ont cherché à faire valoir non plus la linéarité d'un supposé progrès démocratique, mais plutôt la manière dont ce système loin d'être une donnée de départ, est la résultante de combats, souvent acharnés, celle d'une histoire par à-coups, faite de revers et de victoires. L'accent est mis de fait, avec Habermas, sur le pluralisme d'un système libéral où les revendications successives provenant des « exclus », ceux qui, au sein de la société civile font valoir leurs droits à l'inclusion et à la participation. La « contestation », ici, pris dans le sens de « contest », soit de compétition entre les intérêts particuliers, serait donc le vecteur même de la construction d'un système pluraliste qui ne semble pas remis en question en tant que tel, mais auquel, tour à tour les individus et groupes viennent se rattacher.

Or si tel est le sens premier de cette expression, elle nous fournit l'occasion de réfléchir plus largement aux formes qu'a prise et continue de prendre la contestation d'un modèle politique dominant et qui n'apporte pas les réponses contenues dans ses promesses de départ. Outre les contestations classiques, comme la manifestation, la révolte ou la désobéissance, nous nous intéressons ici à tous les modes de participation émanant de la sphère publique, ou de la société civile dans son ensemble, qui visent à réinventer la notion même de démocratie. Le champ d'étude ne doit pas se limiter à une opposition classique entre « la rue » et le pouvoir, même si des événements récents peuvent nous inviter à repenser également ce rapport. On s'intéressera ainsi aux tentatives des pouvoirs eux-mêmes de secréter leurs propres contre-feux à d'éventuelles contestations, à travers la mise en place de divers mécanismes de consultation ou de partenariats locaux, comme cela a été le cas par exemple en Grande-Bretagne, sous les gouvernements New Labour. La contestation ou la critique de la démocratie représentative, lorsqu'elle émane du pouvoir lui-même, peut parfois se muer en outil de contrôle de la société civile. On pourra étendre l'espace de contestation aux sphères privée et économique, celle notamment de l'entreprise et du monde des affaires, et aux formes de participation alternative proposées par l'accès aux nouvelles formes de communication virtuelle. Par définition, la notion de « contested democracy », nous encourage à ne pas scinder participation et contestation et nous engage à envisager les formes prises par ce que Pierre Rosanvallon a pu appeler « contre-démocratie », faite de défiance vis-à-vis d'un pouvoir soit disant démocratique, dont le revers est de mettre en danger l'existence même de la communauté qui fonde le politique. Ainsi, les nouvelles technologies et les nouveaux dispositifs qui leurs sont associés peuvent se penser, selon les contextes et les usages, comme outils de contestation ou instruments de cohésion sociale, et sont envisagés tantôt comme une remise en cause du modèle de démocratie représentative, tantôt comme un moyen d'insuffler une vie nouvelle à des systèmes démocratiques au bord de l'épuisement.

L'objet du colloque est de faire émerger une synthèse de la recherche en cours sur les formes nouvelles voire innovantes, dans l'actualité comme dans l'histoire du monde anglophone, de la participation, dans sa forme critique du pouvoir et des modes alternatifs de prise de pouvoir, hors de l'espace qui lui est traditionnellement dévolu.

Ces pistes de réflexion autour de la démocratie en conteste' concernent une série de thématiques dans lesquelles pourront s'inscrire les propositions de communication, selon une perspective tant historique que contemporaine, sans exclusive :

  • espace local, société civile
  • partis politiques, mouvements sociaux, mouvements associatifs
  • communications, réseaux, nouveaux médias, réseaux sociaux
  • diversité culturelle, mobilisations identitaires
  • gouvernance, influence des acteurs privés et publics...
The conference is dedicated to the memory of Professor Naomi Wulf who very sadly passed away in April.
She was a driving force behind the conception and organisation of this conference and she is very much missed.


  • 3-5 rue de l'École de Médecine (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Institut du Monde Anglophone)
    Paris, France


  • Thursday, September 20, 2012
  • Friday, September 21, 2012
  • Saturday, September 22, 2012


  • contested democracy, démocratie contestée


  • Sarah Pickard
    courriel : sarah [dot] pickard [at] sorbonne-nouvelle [dot] fr

Information source

  • Sarah Pickard
    courriel : sarah [dot] pickard [at] sorbonne-nouvelle [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Contested Democracy: », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Monday, June 04, 2012, https://calenda.org/208807

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