FRAL - Programme franco-allemand en Sciences humaines et sociales

(New) Political Representative Claims: A Global View (France, Germany, Brazil, China, India) – CLAIM

New) Political Representative Claims: A Global View (France, Germany, Brazil, China, India)

This project addresses the present (and pressing) problem of how (new) “representative claims” (Saward 2010) can be conceptualized and comprehended within political systems based on electoral or party representation, from a global perspective. Most citizens no longer believe that elections and parties guarantee their ‘being represented’. A multitude of representative claims have emerged, that require to be analyzed within a renewed conceptual framework.

Political representation beyond elections: identifying and analysing new representative claims in a global perspective

This ambition of this project is to understand the transformations of political representation in the 21st century, with a particular interest in new representative claims, that is, claims to represent that are not based on election. Indeed, it seems necessary to address the research gap regarding global analyses of new representative claims, and more specifically regarding North-South comparisons on this issue. Thus we propose to conduct such a comparison (including a non-democratic state like China) through our investigation of political representation in Brazil, China, France, Germany and India.<br />We plan to identify, analyse and conceptualise the new representative claims that are expressed today in a global perspective. Concretely, research will focus on two main fields in each of the five countries under study: (i) representative claims that emerge in three debates at the national level (i.e. in Parliament and in the medias) and that we consider as most significant with regard to the issue of political representation; and (ii) representative claims that can be observed in participatory devices, at the subnational level. <br />Ultimately, we hope that this large and diverse research program will contribute to renewing the conceptualisation of political representation.

The research is structured in two fields:
Field 1: public discourse on misrepresentation and representative claims at the national level. We have selected the three most salient debates in each country from the 1980s onwards, that is, debates that have led to a broad public controversy and truly impacted the respective political systems. In France, Germany, Brazil and India, our main sources are: political speeches, parliamentary debates, decisions of the supreme courts and public interventions of intellectuals in two leading national newspapers. In China, we focus on discourses in the Party Congresses, official reports such as the White Papers and debates of national interest taking place on the Internet. The main method used here is discourse analysis.
Field 2: Representative claims in participatory devices at the subnational level. In each country, we are conducting fieldwork on representative claims in three ongoing sub-national participatory devices. The main criteria for the selection of the cases are (i) that they have a real salience in the country studied, and (ii) they allow us to analyze contrasting representative claims in order to develop a comprehensive, full-fledged typology. The main methods used here are interviews, participant observation and analysis of video records.
Studying national discourses on the one hand, and doing fieldwork at the subnational level on the other hand, allows us to build a triangulation and to formulate strong hypotheses. We follow the method of “case thinking” (Passeron & Revel 2005) that cautiously generalizes from case studies onwards.

Half-way in the research programme, we can summarize in this way the state of work:
- About two thirds of fieldwork and data collection, in the five countries under study, have been completed;
- We have collectively elaborated a common code book in order to analyse the texts in our corpus with Atlas.ti; we have also organised an internal training about the use of this application;
- We have created a website to present the advancement of research:
- We have made significant progress in our conceptualisation of political representation, in the typologies we use, in the comparative history of the notion of representation;
- We have a large number of publications, both collective and individual, in several languages;
- We have organised several international scientific events, and we have made a large number of presentations in seminars and conferences to present our first findings;
- The dialogue between team members has become more intense, and the initial team has integrated several scholars (from China, Brazil and India, but also from Switzerland, Spain, the USA, UK and Mexico) who expressed their interest in the project and are willing to participate regularly in our scientific events.

• Conference on «Représentation théâtrale et représentation politique », Comédie de Reims, April 2018.
• Two panels (and a call for papers) in the European Conference of South Asian Studies (ECSAS), Paris, July 2018 : « Political representation in India: new discourses, new practices? » and “Who Speaks for the Village? Representations of the “Rural” in India from the Colonial to the Post-Colonial Era”.
• Three panels in the section « Political representation » of the next conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), Hamburg, August 2018.
• One panel in the forthcoming Congress of the German Association for Political Science, Frankfurt, September 2018
• Organisation of an international conference at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, March 2019
• Publication of several collective books and special issues of journals.

Between 2016 and 2018, the seven members of the French team have collectively or individually produced the following publications:
- 7 special issues in an academic journal
- 6 books
- 10 articles in peer-reviewed journals
- 14 chapters in a book
They have also organised 9 conferences or workshops; and they have presented 51 communications.

Europe currently experiences a crisis of established forms of political representation, visible for example in increasing political distrust. Various claims to renew political representation are emerging all over the world. However, most contemporary research on representation focuses on electoral/mandate representation within single countries. As a result, we lack a comparative, global analysis of (new) representative claims developed outside the representative political system; and dynamics developing in the Global South, including non-democratic entities, are neglected by Western scholars. Our research intends to address these gaps by putting into perspective representative claims in France and Germany –two leading democracies in Europe actively experimenting with new concepts of representation–, and in three BRICS states: Brazil –the largest democracy in Latin America with innovative participatory devices including competing representative claims–, India –the world’s largest democracy and a pioneer in electoral quotas (as a claim for descriptive representation)– and China – a non-democratic regime engaged in a huge transformation with specific representative claims.

Building on German and French political theory, our conceptual framework departs from standard ways of considering political representation in the context of electoral and mandate claims (e.g. Pitkin). We argue that while mandate representation remains important, it fails to account for crucial contemporary developments. Our premise is that political representation is increasingly related to the (re)emergence of new representative claims, i.e. situations in which an actor claims to speak/act in the name of others. Such claims are most often based on the denunciation of misrepresentation, which they pretend to correct. However, in spite of the increasing variety of representative claims around the world, a comprehensive conceptual framework and a typology allowing a deeper understanding of these claims are missing and we will address this conceptual gap.

In the five countries under scrutiny, we will identify different situations in which (seemingly) new representative claims are raised, criticized or justified. Proceeding through a carefully designed common methodological framework, our research will pursue the objective of analyzing developments of representative claims from a global, transnational perspective. To reach this objective we focus on two research fields. We analyze: (i) representative claims at the national level (national parliaments and media) raised during three national debates in each country; (ii) representative claims raised in three participatory devices at the subnational level in each country. At both levels representative claims are justified with alleged misrepresentation of certain groups/individuals within the given representative bodies. We will rest on qualitative methods for data collection and apply the adjusted Representative Claim Analysis for data analyses. To scale up our findings, we will follow the “case-thinking” approach, identify patterns of representative claims, develop a typology which can be applied for “terminological, classificatory and heuristic means’ (Weber 1921), and theorize the findings in the context of modern democratic theory.

Project coordination

Yves SINTOMER (CNRS/U. Paris 8, Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CNRS-Lille 2, CERAPS Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches Administratives, Politiques et Sociales
UPEC, Lipha Université Paris Est Créteil, Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d'étude du politique Hannah Arendt Paris Est
CEIAS (CNRS DR PARIS B) Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud
Duisburg-Essen Universität, Politik u. Gesellschaft Chinas Duisburg-Essen Universität, Seniorprofessur Politik u. Gesellschaft Chinas
IEP Bordeaux, Centre Émile Durkheim Institut d'études politiques de Bordeaux, Centre Émile Durkheim
Uni Franfkfurt/M, Politikwissenschaft Goethe Universität Franfkfurt, Institut für Politikwissenschaft
CNRS-EHESS, CEIAS Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud
CNRS/Paris 8, CRESPPA CNRS/U. Paris 8, Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris

Help of the ANR 349,929 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: March 2016 - 36 Months

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