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Rethinking the public

Rethinking the public: Innovations in research, theory and politics

Nick Mahony
Janet Newman
Clive Barnett
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Rethinking the public
    Book Description:

    This book rethinks the public, public communication and public action in a globalising and mediated world. It develops novel theoretical perspectives for investigating the formation of publics, focusing on four overlapping processes: claiming publics; personalising publics; mediating publics; and becoming public. Using fascinating case studies, Rethinking the public offers a rich set of methodological resources on which other researchers can draw and foregrounds the need to interrogate the boundaries between theory, research and politics. It is ideal reading for higher level undergraduate and masters programmes in politics, geography, public policy, sociology, social policy, public administration and cultural studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-417-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Notes on contributors
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. ONE Introduction: rethinking the public
    (pp. 1-14)
    Nick Mahony, Janet Newman and Clive Barnett

    The idea of ‘the public’ as a singular entity, circumscribed by bonds of national solidarity and expressing itself in a unified public sphere, has become increasingly problematic. New media and information technologies are undercutting traditional notions of the public sphere, opening up a range of innovative possibilities for public communication. New objects of public concern are emerging: for example, around environmental issues, human rights, trade justice and access to the global ‘commons’ of scarce resources. And many of these issues are in turn summoning up new subjects of public action that articulate local and national scales of activity with transnational...

  5. TWO Mediating the publics of public participation experiments
    (pp. 15-28)
    Nick Mahony

    Public engagement experiments are currently proliferating. State-commissioned experiments have included citizens’ juries, citizens’ councils, deliberative polls and consensus conferences; media experiments have used ‘voting’ and plebiscites in many different kinds of television programmes or entailed the creation of online political ‘games’; social movement practitioners have experimented with the orchestration of translocal political events and used internet technologies to help cultivate temporary alliances for bursts of political activism. These and many other apparently novel approaches to public engagement are already being investigated by researchers concerned with either state, media or social movement politics (see, for example, Barnes et al, 2007 and...

  6. THREE Going public? Articulations of the personal and political on
    (pp. 29-42)
    Richenda Gambles

    The growth of interactive online communication is often associated with an opening up and extending of communicative options and possibilities, and a key aspect or example of this is the sort of communication that focuses on topics of a personal or intimate nature. In this kind of communication, people are encouraged and enabled to go public with personal feelings or experiences and this, in turn, can tap into, shape and potentially transform public understanding and debate – what was termed ‘personalising publics’ in the introduction to this volume.

    This optimistic reading suggests that interactive online communication has the Power to...

  7. FOUR Digitising and visualising: old media, new media and the pursuit of emerging urban publics
    (pp. 43-60)
    Scott Rodgers

    Questions of publics and publicness, as the previous two chapters have shown, open up questions of media and mediation. Habermas’s (1989) public sphere inextricably links public communication to the practices and institutions of mass media (cf. Garnham, 1992). By contrast, much contemporary debate, both popular and academic, has paid attention to the proliferation of new media technologies and practices that apparently blur long-standing distinctions between the ‘mass’ and the ‘personal’ (Lüders, 2008). Unsurprisingly, these radical changes in media and mediation are seen also to entail radically new configurations of publics and publicness (Holmes, 2002), seen as both positive and negative...

  8. FIVE Mediating publics in colonial Delhi
    (pp. 61-74)
    Gurpreet Bhasin

    In late 19th-century India, the burgeoning of print media and new public spaces of discourse ushered in distinctive forms of politics as well as new forms of colonial governmentality. These new media practices politicised public spaces and they created important links, networks and circuits of discussion – not only within British and Indian arenas, but also among an emerging global pan-Islamic movement. This chapter looks at how colonial publics emerged, functioned and were made effective in late 19th- and early 20th-century Delhi by highlighting different aspects of public mediation. I emphasise the vital contribution of print media and other public...

  9. SIX Public and private on the housing estate: small community groups, activism and local officials
    (pp. 75-90)
    Eleanor Jupp

    Chapter Five shows how public and private spaces of discourse were contested in colonial Delhi. But a focus on boundaries between public and private has long been associated with feminist struggle, with women working to show how their ‘placing’ in the private or domestic sphere, as opposed to a masculine public sphere of political and economic activity, has been a key aspect of their oppression and exploitation. Lister (2003a, p 119) talks of ‘the historical centrality of the public–private divide to the exclusion of women from citizenship in both theory and practice’. However, this chapter examines these insights within...

  10. SEVEN Whose education? Disentangling publics, persons and citizens
    (pp. 91-106)
    Jessica Pykett

    The realm of UK education policy may appear to be an unlikely site for an analysis of the emerging objects, subjects and mediums of publicness, since schools are often characterised as particularly fixed or static spaces that have not changed radically since the inception of mass schooling in the 19th century. However, recent reforms in education policy point towards the emergence of new ways of talking and thinking about the public value of education, new forms of educational governance, and a new settlement between the ideals of the public, person and citizen – both as they are imagined through the...

  11. EIGHT Fishing for the public interest: making and representing publics in North Sea fisheries governance reforms
    (pp. 107-126)
    Liza Griffin

    John Dewey (1927) was one of the first to make a case that there is noa priorior pre-formed entity called ‘the public’. He argued that ‘the public’, or ‘publics’ as we will later call them, only comes into being around specific issues. That is to say, publics are spontaneous coalitions of citizens who all have an interest in, or suffer the ill effects of, common problems. As Noortje Marres (2005), drawing on Dewey’s work, succinctly puts it, if there is ‘no issue, [then there is] no public’. More specifically, Dewey claims that publics are called into being when...

  12. NINE De-naming the beast: the Global Call to Action against Poverty and its multiple forms of publicness
    (pp. 127-142)
    Clive Gabay

    The naming of publics is an important political and ontological process. Several chapters of this volume (for example, Chapters Three, Eight and Ten) speak to the processual nature of publics; the idea that publics do not pre-exist the process of their becoming, and are not a substantive ‘thing’. Naming is part of this processual becoming, but naming is also the moment that complexity, contingency and contradictions are flattened, or as Law (2003) would argue, ‘othered’. This chapter will therefore address the attempted ‘names’ (categorisations) that have been developed in the post-Cold War era to fix the processual becoming of global...

  13. TEN Paradoxical publicness: becoming-imperceptible with the Brazilian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement
    (pp. 143-162)
    J. Simon Hutta

    Along with several other texts in this volume (for example, Chapters Two, Eight and Nine), this chapter¹ explores the processual character of publicness. More specifically, it is concerned with the question of heterogeneity and how potentials for change can unfold through interactions of heterogeneous actors and kinds of engagement. My focus is on the dynamics of becoming that unfold underneath and within the antagonistic oppositions and contradictions making up perceivable positions of difference. Such becomings, I argue, are capable of assembling positions of difference in new ways, thereby creating ever-new paradoxical surfaces on which antagonisms, contradictions and new worldings take...

  14. ELEVEN Conclusion: emergent publics
    (pp. 163-174)
    Nick Mahony, Janet Newman and Clive Barnett

    The chapters in this collection demonstrate the multiplicity of ways in which the project of ‘rethinking’ the public is proceeding. It is not our purpose here to summarise them, but to highlight key issues this volume presents for future analysis of the processes of public formation. We do so by returning to the four themes set out in the introduction.

    First, we reiterate the paradoxes inherent in contemporary slippages between notions of the public, personal and political. Such slippages slide into the narratives of both decline and proliferation, with the ‘personal’ offering new voicings and practices of publicness, while also...

  15. Index
    (pp. 175-179)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 180-180)