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What are the challenges for ethnographic research in co-creating situations to foster empowerment in poor communities? And what relation do these processes bear to the experience of politics and political possibility today? This paper will draw on work currently being carried out in eight different "centres sociaux" in the Centre Val de Loire Region where researchers have both observed and participated in workshops designed to reflect on practices and representations of interpersonal dynamics between employees and volunteers. Most French "centres sociaux" are managed by voluntary associations with full autonomy in the design of their project and financial support of public institutions. The project offers insight into the challenges of crossing over from the position of researcher to that of community stake-holder and sets out some important questions for ethnographic enquiry today. 

Catherine Neveu: 'The research design was based on both traditional ethnographic fieldwork done by researchers in 8 centres sociaux in the Centre Val de Loire region on the one hand and on the other on a series of "co-production workshops" during which employees and volunteers of these centres sociaux debated around their practices and representations, and their (often difficult) relations with empowerment. There are around 1,500 centres sociaux in France, most of which are managed by associations that are autonomous in the design of the centre's project while being at the same time largely dependent of public institutions for their fundings (80%). Volunteers can be involved in the organisation of activities and/or in the governing body of centres sociaux (Administration board, the legal employer of the staff). They are supposed to be in charge of the "political dimension" of the centre's project while employees are in charge of its implementation. The presentation will be organized around two main topics by presenting both preliminary results on (the absence of) processes of politicization; and a first critical analysis of the collaborative dimension of the research. My specific position in the project (being both a researcher and a member of the regional federation) provides for interesting highlights on both issues.' 


Catherine Neveu is an anthropologist whose research has been largely dedicated to the theoretical and empirical elaboration of an "anthropology of citizenship". After her PhD's fieldwork on issues of nationality, citizenship and community in London, she analyzed different situations of "inhabitants participation" in French cities. Her most recent work concerns ordinary (forms of) citizenship and empowerment practices. She is chairing the Scientific Council of the GIS Démocratie et Participation. Among her recent publications in English : « Practising citizenship from the ordinary to the activist », in E. Isin and P. Nyers (dirs.), Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies, Londres, Routledge, 2014; Disputing citizenship, with J. Clarke, K. Coll and E. Dagnino, Londres, Policy Press, 2014, or « Of ordinariness and citizenship processes », Citizenship Studies, Vol. 19, n° 2, 2015, pp. 141-154.