• Guillermo Aguirre Nunez
4. term, Techno-Anthropology, Master (Master Programme)
The issue of citizen participation has been increasingly discussed, theorized and tested in many cities during the last decade. There are more and more cases of city councils developing participation tools or areas within their structures with the aim of co-producing municipal policies jointly with other stakeholders and citizens. However, the concept has become one of those abstract categories with no particular meaning and a great invoking power. It tends to be misused by governments who give very limited conditions for participation or who use it to legitimize whatever decision is finally taken, which becomes coated with the socially acceptable label of citizen participation. In this situation, the development of a critical current that analyses citizen participation processes to thresh their goals and effects becomes necessary.
This thesis analyzes the open participative process in Barcelona to redesign its main avenue La Rambla. La Rambla is an example of a public realm that is being increasingly intertwined with private forces, and it is the paradigm of the neoliberal city. In that sense, the case is used to understand how citizen participation takes place –and to what degree– in such an intricate context. The aim of this project is to reflect on whether the Barcelona case of citizen participation is an “empty ritual” (Arnstein, 1969) or a way to actually transfer “real power” (Ibid.) to citizens.
The analysis of the case will take the expert team who leads the La Rambla project as a guiding element to follow the participative process. The creation of a network around the avenue and the interessement devices used to attract the relevant actors will be analyzed. The way in which participation takes place in the La Rambla project will be also addressed, reflecting on the given conditions and limitations. The role of the digital platform entitled Decidim.Barcelona in the participative process and the use that the expert team made of it will also be analyzed.
By analysing the case of La Rambla, the intention of this thesis is not only to understand what is citizen participation in such a complex neoliberal urban context, but also to gather the inputs of some of the different voices surrounding it, from the official ones to the most critical ones. The project concludes that while the Barcelona case brings some interesting improvements to the notion of citizen participation thanks to the approach of the expert team and their perspective on the concept, it is still far from the transfer of power to citizens that some authors (Arnstein, 1969; Lefebvre, 1996 [1969]) describe.
Publication date1 Jun 2018
Number of pages94
ID: 280244355