Contemporary Democratic Theory: Enhancing Public Participation in Local Governance around the World (South Africa)

Instructor: Laurence Piper

Contemporary Democratic Theory – Enhancing Public Participation in Local Governance around the World is a senior undergraduate Political Science module, at the University of the Western Cape.

The University of the Western Cape's Political Studies Postgraduate Programme


The objectives of the course are to introduce students to concepts such as citizenship, democracy and participation from a citizens perspective, and to use participatory methods and case studies.

  • Students

    The University of the Western Cape is historically black and the students are generally from relatively disadvantaged schools. This course has 10 – 15 senior undergraduate students.

  • Structure

    The course covers different perspectives of politics from the view point of the citizen and gives a different take on politics, the literature and methodologies, with more emphasis on case studies and anthropological methods (such as showing videos). It is conducted in eight seminars over one semester: the first three seminars introduce democratic theory; the next five seminars cover case studies.

  • Context

    This course is part of a traditional undergraduate degree and both the lecturer and students were unfamiliar with participatory teaching methods or viewing politics from the citizen’s perspective. The style of the classroom interaction was also influenced by some students' involvement in movement politics. These students would default to a rigid style of charing that is typical of political meetings. So for both these reasons, the course has been a transformative experience for all those involved.

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