RDG_Conference Report_Ma. Teresa R. Melgar

Conference Report

Write up about the Conference

Conference Theme: Intersecting Belongings: Cultural Conviviality and Cosmopolitan Futures 

The conference presented an opportunity for scholars and advanced graduate students working on different dimensions of citizenship to present their work-in-progress and recent publications. Consistent with the theme for this year, participants explored the manifold ways in which immigration processes, local democratization efforts and postcolonial struggles, among others, are raising new questions about the politics of belonging and the conditions for deepening citizenship rights in a new era. The conference brought together scholars from the United States, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Canada, the Philippines, Colombia and Jamaica, among others.

Feedback on paper presented

As I noted in my application for the OVPAA Research Dissemination Grant, the Center for the Study of Citizenship which organized this conference has increasingly sought to broaden international participation in its intellectual life, consistent with its goal of generating a more global engagement with questions of citizenship. In this context, my paper generated interest since it presented the Porto Alegre (Brazil) experience with participation and citizenship from a comparative perspective. Participants in the “Localized Citizenship” panel (see Panel 18, page 9 of Annex 1A and 1B) where I presented were generally keen to learn more about how Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting stimulated a greater sense of citizenship and citizenship rights, which was precisely the focus of my paper. As noted by the panel’s moderator, it was also significant that all papers presented in the session commonly saw citizenship struggles at the local level as shaped by demands for social inclusion and belonging. This is a key insight that my paper likewise suggests and which I plan to elaborate in further research.

Future directions of research presented

I am envisioning two possibilities for the paper: I may be able to publish it in a special issue of the journal Citizenship Studies published by Wayne State University and edited by Marc Kruman, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Citizenship. The other possibility is to submit it for publication in another international peer-reviewed journal. In either case, I plan to refine the paper with theoretical insights gained from the conference on questions of citizenship, rights and belonging. I am also continuing my research on Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting from which this paper was drawn, via the PhD Incentive Award I was granted in 2012.  This time, I plan to specifically investigate the challenges facing the sustainability of such democratic reforms under inhospitable political conditions.

Potential foreign collaborators

I am particularly keen to maintain professional relationships with the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University as it is engaged in a number of relevant academic and public outreach activities related to the practice and study of citizenship and citizenship rights. The Center links together a vibrant network of scholars working on citizenship from Europe, the US and some developing countries; my linkages with the Center would therefore enable me to also forge collaborative relationships with some of these scholars.

Other important contacts and insights

As I noted in previous RDG reports, conferences such as what I attended are very important for enriching one’s academic and intellectual horizons and forging collaborative linkages with scholars working on similar issues from different geographical regions. I hope the University of the Philippines will continue to support the participation of its faculty in such activities.

Short write-up of one’s participation (to be used to feature/publicize the grantee’s participation in the conference)

Teresa Melgar presented a paper at “The Meaning of Citizenship: 10th Anniversary Conference” organized by the Wayne State University Center for the Study of Citizenship on March 21-23, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Entitled “Voices from the Periphery: Participatory Budgeting and the Remaking of Citizenship in Porto Alegre, Brazil,” the paper examines how citizenship, understood as social inclusion and direct political participation, infused the efforts of social movement activists and state reformers to open the local state to popular control via participatory budgeting. By enabling ordinary citizens to directly participate in municipal budget-making, broadening access to public goods among the city’s poorest communities, and reducing their dependence to clientelistic ties with local elites, the paper argues that participatory budgeting has led to the deepening of social and political citizenship rights.  Teresa presented the paper for a session on “Localized Citizenship” together with panelists from different universities in the United States. The paper is based on her doctoral dissertation which compares the dynamics of local democratization processes in Porto Alegre, Brazil and Naga, the Philippines.

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