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Indigenous grassroots participation and the coevolution of deliberative systems

Mei-Fang Fan, National Yang-Ming University

Tue 2 October 2018

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Research on deliberative systems with detailed discussions on indigenous democracy and the deliberative features of indigenous activism is limited. The heterogeneous and ambivalent complexity of colonial history and geographical contexts has had a considerable effect on indigenous representatives and indigenous forms of deliberation. Indigenous movement and environmental protests against the dominance of the state are traditionally regarded as nondeliberative. The systemic approach of deliberative democracy argues that activism constitute an integral part of public deliberation, which recognises the contribution of indigenous knowledge and democratic practices to policy-making and wider deliberative systems. This article considers indigenous activism and political communication as a part of the macro-deliberative system as well as a micro deliberative system in itself. Drawing on the controversy on flooding and wild creek remediation projects on Orchid Island, Taiwan, this study explored how indigenous activism facilitate space for deliberation and improve the democratising quality of deliberative systems. Tao tribesmen transcended their original boundaries to engage in communication and activate plural deliberative spaces when facing conflicting new challenges and the government’s dominant policy positions with limited discursive space. Tao activists used the virtual community as both an internal and external communication platform and engaged in transmission and visualisation of traditional knowledge system and practices. Indigenous grassroots participation facilitates knowledge coproduction and social learning and reshapes tribal political subjectivities, which reveals the coevolution of tribal deliberative systems and their interaction with the State, intertwined with deliberative systems.

About the speaker

Mei-Fang Fan is Professor at the Institute of Science, Technology and Society, National Yang-Ming University and research fellow at the Risk Society and Policy Research Centre, National Taiwan University. She holds a Doctoral degree in Environment and Society from Lancaster University, UK. Research interests include environmental justice and governance; deliberative democracy and public participation in decision-making on risk; participatory budgeting; local knowledge and citizen science. Her recent work on environmental justice, public deliberations on GM foods in Taiwan and nuclear waste facility siting controversy has appeared in the journals Human Ecology, Public Understanding of Science and Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Mei-Fang sits on the editorial board of Taiwanese journal of public administration and is a member of the Taipei City participatory budgeting government-academia alliance.

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