Civic society, activism and democracy in two cities

katjaleyendecker01After two months on field trip to Germany I have returned to Newcastle reinvigorated. And with a new idea. I now understand what I want to –  must – include in my research. An intimate part had been missing. It is the role of civic society, action and activism in my research. Democracy in action.

I say new idea, but perhaps it isn’t that new. Campaigning, strategies and conceptualisation of campaigning has crept into this blog for a while. Not least because my super supervisor pointed me in that direction, subtly but determinately, for a while. Notably the ESRCAAD event in Newcastle last year that help me to talk at VeloCity 2016 about the academia-advocacy link.

The women forums in York, Edinburgh and Hereford respectively were also turning points in defragging my direction and position. I contributed to each forum, and with an activist’s hat on too. Progressively more and more so.

Also there was the Jensen model, which I started to adapt tentatively for campaigning is another signpost, in hindsight. And not to leave out this blogpost about marginalisation and this blogpost about activation.

Retrospectively I can now see that there was a struggle raging in my head. It was about how to constructively filter my activism background into my PhD. When originally I thought that would be an impossible, nearly defeating, undertaking that ought not to be done… I have now come to the conclusion that I cannot – and should not – shut out my hard-gained knowledge of nearly seven years of addressing Newcastle council’s procedures, processes and practices. As a result I’ll put activism and its direct links to democracy and democratic processes much much more centre stage in my PhD than I planned and envisaged, or even dared, originally. Reading around research philosophies and methodologies over the past few months has helped a me lot to find a relatively comfortable position (Bent Flyvbjerg’s phronetics and Dorothy E Smith’s feminist standpoint to mention only two influences). Much will come out in the wash, as they say, since the comparison to Bremen (Germany) will remain an integral and decisive part of the research.

As always.
Work in progress.
Some pieces fell into place.
And, above all, the “new” direction feels good, and it feels right.

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