CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

This paper looks at two spaces of participation implemented in a neighborhood in Berlin within the policy that targets poor neighborhoods in Germany (the “Quartiersmanagement” within the program “Social City”), a cooking workshop in an association and a parents’ café in a primary school. Through an ethnographical and pragmatist approach, it questions the appropriation by participants of the institutional prescriptions regarding their good participation. These participants are women with migration backgrounds and low incomes, some of them employed through subsidized contracts as “neighborhood mothers.” While the actual level of participation highlights some differences vis-à-vis the institutional aims, their regular observation illustrates interactional styles that are tinged with conviviality, which are not favorable to the discussion of inequalities. However, within the far reaches of these spaces, the participants, drawing on strong single-sex relations, are developing a hidden transcript of domination on the basis of a common gender identity, as mothers of pupils and individuals coming from stigmatized immigration. While the phenomenon of the evaporation of politics, as analyzed by Nina Eliasoph, may be confirmed, this paper shows that such analysis must also give way to a possible process of the re-condensation of politics behind the scenes of outward participation.


  • participation
  • poor neighborhood policies
  • ethnography of politics
  • hidden transcript
  • appropriation
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