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Participatory Politics in the Age of Crisis

A networked conversation series

By Any Media Necessary: The New Youth Activism, first published in 2016, will be released soon in a paperback edition. As the authors of that book (Sangita Shresthova, Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Liana Gamber-Thompson, Arely Zimmerman and yours truly) discussed how to celebrate this milestone, we began to talk about all that had changed since the book’s launch — not only the Trump-ing of America but political crisis and Right-ward lurches in countries all over the planet. We asked ourselves whether the concept of participatory politics made sense as we face those sobering realities.

We decided the best response was to launch a large scale conversation involving others we have engaged with through our work in the Civic Paths project through the years — former Annenberg PhD students, members of the Youth and Participatory Politics Networks, other thinking partners including those who have entered our orbit since the book was published, and folks whose work we admire but who we do not yet know well.

We wanted to insure diversity within the American context and beyond that, we wanted to include perspectives from around the world. So, starting today and running into mid-May, this blog is going to be hosting those exchanges. We will combine back and forth conversations with leading scholars, including all of the original book’s authors, as well as interviews, conducted by my current PhD students, with creative activists from a range of different social movements.

I hope that this process generates new scholarship on participatory politics and also provides would be researchers with a roadmap to what’s already out there. And above all, I hope it provides us all with food for thought as we reflect on what feels like a global crisis in the prospects of a more participatory and democratic culture.

- Henry Jenkins (

The conversations took place between February and June 2019.


Sangita Shresthova/ Joseph Kahne

 "In this opening exchange, we want to provide a bit of background regarding the notion of participatory politics..."


Caty Borum Chatto / Jeffrey Jones

"We talk about “civic” as if the term is widely understood and utilized. But what if it isn’t?"


Neta Kligler-Vilenchik / Nicholas John

"The thing is that politics in Israel is also - and increasingly so - characterized by properties that are hardly beneficial for democracy."


Liana Gamber-Thomspon / Ashley Hink

"And indeed the social ties of fandom have translated into all sorts of publics, civic action, and political cultures."


Rox Samer / Raffi Sarkissian

"This persistent emphasis on newness risks escalating the generational divisions of queer feminist historiographies."

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Andrew Schrock /Moritz Fink

"To me, the biggest recent development is the increased role of media technologies in politics."


Arely Zimmerman/ Andres Lombana

My interest in participatory politics is connected to my work in immigrants’ rights movements in the United States... the activism of undocumented youth..."

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Winifried R. Poster/Gabriel Peters-Lazaro

"Decades later I find that the issue, for me and many others, is authoritarianism." 


Stuart Cunningham, Eric Gordon, David Craig

"Participation in a digital culture is not the same as public life."

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Kishonna Gray/ Lori Kido Lopez

"It is undeniable that people of color are under tremendous threat right now..."


Kevin Driscoll/ Pablo Martinez-Zárate 

"Do you think that art education and artistic practice could be areas of challenging and reinventing our relationship with technology?"


Aniko Bodroghkozy / Caesar L. McDowell

"The vast majority of us are living among the most demographically complex set of people who have ever lived together in a democracy."


Jennifer Earl / Zizi Papacharissi

"I like to say that technologies network us, but it is our stories that connect us."

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Suzanne Scott / Camilo Diaz Pino

"I vividly remember the reactions that rolled in when it was revealed that over 50% of white women voted for Trump in 2016, which ranged from performative shock to knowing dismay."


Yomna Elsayed/ Katie Davis

"To my mind, the energy fueling the Arab Spring must have transformed, but never dissipated."


Jonathan Gray/ Paul Mihailidis

"Political minds aren’t born from just going to march one day from out of nowhere. I think popular culture, formative life experiences, and media habits contribute more to our media activism than anything else."


Melissa Brough/ David Nemer

"Historically, what has made media participatory was how they were used and by whom, not the technologies themselves."


Mel Stanfil/ Samantha Close

"The problem that many of the necessary resources for participatory politics, particularly those based on capital like technological infrastructure, skill, and access, come from existing centers of privilege and power is very real."


Mark Deuze/ Derek Johnson

"One of the key stories behind Brexit may very well be the deplorable failure of (or frustration with) participatory politics."

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Henry Jenkins/ Nico Carpentier

"Actually, the ethical is problematically absent in contemporary Western political discourse as a whole. That is one more reason why we should explain that the redistribution of power is deeply ethical."

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