Catalina Pollack (UCL) - 2020-21 Students

Critical Play: participatory tools for radical citizenship

Chile´s current social and political crisis has repositioned participatory democratic values at the centre of civil society, and furthermore, on citizens. During the four months of mass mobilisation, street protests, and civil unrest; a sprawl of different initiatives called for progressive forms of collective action to address aspects of social inequality and social justice. These radical forms of participation, not only have expanded participation from politics to the political realm of the social, but suggest the creation of ‘invented spaces’ (Cornwall, 2007) that blur the boundaries between political protest, social activism and artistic practice.

The situation in Chile offers the opportunity to revise participation through the lens of participatory democratic theory, but furthermore to analyse how culture-forming practices within the radical agenda can in turn help to reconceptualise participation within the broader spectrum of the ‘participatory turn’.

Through this thesis I aim to put forward the concept of ‘Critical Play’, both as a theoretical and methodological framework, to question the way in which play as a creative culture-forming practice can operate as a critical device towards the formation of democratic citizens. By engaging through the lens of ‘Critical Play’ with practices and forms of civic engagement that blur the boundaries between politics, the arts and social activism, alongside tactical interventions in the form of participatory action research (PAR); the research hopes to offer an interdisciplinary approach to participation towards advancing its original emancipatory project of social transformation.

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