Contesting agendas of participation in the arts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN: 1757-1936
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1944



Forms of participatory practice have become ever more widely employed across the arts in recent years, operating across various institutional settings and social contexts. It is misleading, however, to assume that a single agenda binds these developments or that they serve the same social values and interests. Veils of common terminology can conceal important differences of political intent and ethical integrity. Conceptions of art, artists, culture and community vary widely, while terms such as participation, engagement and co-creation are rarely well defined. This article draws on current research into UK cultural and artistic leadership, as well as established theories of participation and action, to explore the complex power relations that underpin participatory discourse. It critiques policies and practices that claim ‘participation’ as an automatic methodological virtue, questioning the positive connotations of participatory language, particularly in relation to shaping assumptions of shared interest. It argues that there is a need for improved critical selfawareness on the part of artists involved in participatory projects and processes, discussing possible frameworks for analysis of the relevant power relationships.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): art; cultural leadership; discourse; engagement; participation; power
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