John Remensperger (University of Pennsylvania, Communication)
“From Democratic Practice to Protest: The California Bernie Sanders Delegation”
Tom Waters (City University of New York, Political Science)
“Grassroots Expertise at a New York City Community Board”
MUCH OF THE POPULAR PRESS COVERAGE OF THE BERNIE SANDERS delegates at the Democratic National Convention depicted them as out-of-touch ideological zealots, clinging to the hope that Sanders could somehow be nominated at the convention despite his clear disadvantage in the delegate math. REMENSPERGER, using the concept of “activist citizens,” argues that Sanders delegates attended the conventions to carry out “acts of citizenship” – protest, resistance, and organizing – by making broad claims to political justice. To facilitate these acts, activists amongst the Sanders delegates used new media technologies combined with traditional organizing tactics to leverage a tight-knit network of delegates that formed on social media in the months preceding the convention.
IN NEW YORK CITY AND ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, neighborhood councils established by local governments are incorporating citizen participation into decision making while engaging issues that require them to use expert knowledge. These participatory projects can be seen as a way to check the pervasive and potentially undemocratic role of expertise in society. WATER’s ethnographic study investigates the fine-grained human interactions as members of a New York City community board in a low-income neighborhood engage land use and housing issues. He finds that they can partially overcome the challenge of expertise by developing their own technical capacity, and that this enhances board members’ influence. But he also finds that members encounter difficulties that cannot be remedied by more technical capacity.