CfP: Special issue on Failures in Cultural Participation


Article deadline: April 6, 2020 (extended)

Patterns of cultural participation have been the focus of policy research for decades. Particularly since the millennium, quantitative data, often collected by governments, has established the notion of ‘non-participation’ as a ‘problem’ that the state needs to address (Balling and Kann-Christensen, 2013; Jancovich 2015 Stevenson, 2013, Stevenson et al., 2015). Yet despite decades of policies and projects to address this and a growing body of research, carried out by consultants and academics, celebrating the success of such interventions in addressing social inclusion and increasing personal wellbeing, the same ‘problem’ appears to remain in regard to the diversity of people who engage with state supported cultural organisations and activities (Warwick Commission, 2015). It has even been claimed that Europe is becoming it is becoming a “less cultural continent” (European Commission, 2013).

The way in which many projects, organisation and artists are funded and evaluated, combined with the state of financial precarity in which a large number permanently function, means that stories of failure about how cultural participation policies and projects have been enacted are largely overlooked and even supressed in the dominant discourses of cultural policy. This limits and reduces the capacity for “social learning” (May 1992) which may better facilitate change. Without an honest acknowledgement and critically reflective exploration into the nature and extent of failure present in the existing projects and policies by which cultural participation is supposedly supported, then the legitimacy of the status quo will remain difficult to challenge.  

This special edition of Conjuctions invites contributions that explore the role and place of failure in regard to cultural participation. We invite empirical, theoretical and practice informed contributions from across a range of disciplines. Topics may include, but need not be confined to, the following:

  • The value and role of recognising, understanding and learning from failure for cultural policymaking OR for cultural objects, artefacts and activities
  • Defining and recognising failure in cultural participation projects/policies
  • Cases studies of failure in cultural participation projects/policies
  • The politics of failure in cultural participation projects/policies
  • The morality and ethics of failure in regard to cultural participation projects/policies
  • Evaluating and reporting on failure
  • The relationship between quality and failure in delivering cultural projects
  • Framing failure in evaluations
  • Discourses of failure and success in cultural policy/cultural practice

Articles should be between 6000-8000 words, including endnotes, captions and headings. All articles will undergo blind peer review for final selection in the special edition

Any questions related to this special edition can be sent to the guest editors:

Dr Leila Jancovich:

Dr David Stevenson:

Submissions can be made at:

Deadline for submissions: April 6, 2020 (extended)

Read more about CfP: Special issue on Failures in Cultural Participation

Current Issue

Vol 7 No 2 (2020): Failures in Cultural Participation

This special issue of Conjunctions is edited by Leila Jancovich and David Stevenson. It explores how cultural participation policies, projects, and practices could be improved through recognising the pervasiveness of past failures. The issue thereby attempts to challenge existing narratives of unqualified success by offering alternative narratives that consider failure from different perspectives and at different points in the design and implementation of cultural participation policies and projects. In doing so it highlights the extent to which success and failure coexist and the richness of insight that comes from considering both. This matters because it is only such open and honest critical reflection that has the potential to facilitate the social learning needed for those who can exert the most power in the cultural sector to acknowledge the extent of the structural change required for cultural participation to be supported more equitably.

Published: 2020-10-02
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The journal seeks to create an international and transdisciplinary forum for the investigation of user-generated production and user-driven cultural participation across a variety of social fields and participatory platforms, e.g. urban spaces, aesthetic co-productions and online environments. The overall focus is to explore the socially transformative and democratic potential of cultural participation processes, to qualify the academic understanding of what ‘cultural participation’ is and what it involves, and to discuss the complex relations created between user-generated material and established institutions. We invite submissions from a variety of disciplinary fields such as cultural studies, media studies, cultural geography, aesthetics, science and technology studies, health care, information science, sociology, anthropology, and gender studies.