The emergence of a participatory subject: intersections between science, politics and ontology

João Arriscado Nunes Daniel Neves da Costa António Carvalho Ana Raquel Matos About the authors


Over the last few decades, there has been a proliferation of devices of public participation. Those procedures can assume a wide range of configurations, generating a number of practical and theoretical issues. Drawing upon the analysis of two case studies - focus groups on nanotechnologies in Coimbra, Portugal, and Health Councils in Belo Horizonte, Brazil - this article reflects on political and methodological issues related to the conception and implementation of participatory devices. Our analysis explores the emergence of the participatory subject, intertwined with abilities and forms of knowledge that allow intervention in deliberative spaces. It is argued that participatory devices and subjectification processes are intertwined, following Foucault’s reflections on subjectivity and post-humanist approaches within Science and Technology Studies. The two case studies illustrate how participatory processes trigger new epistemic, rhetorical and normative capacities linked to the habilitation and subjectification of participants. In that sense, the article explores the political aspects of practices, methodologies and processes that support public engagement with science, technology and health, leading to the denaturalization of the participatory subject and to the recognition of the performative dimension of social sciences.

Public participation in Science and Technology; Ontological turn; Social Studies of Science and Technology; Nanotechnologies; Health Councils

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