"Stars in the Arena?" Democracy Theory and its Implications for Participatory Research
Participatory methods aim to democratize and critique societies. However, their understanding of democracy has never been questioned. It is crucial to undertake such an analysis in order to fullyrecognize the critical potential of research employing a participatory approach. Looking at participatory research we raise the following questions: Who are the real “stars” within participatory research and why? Who is participating and for what reasons, to what extent of time and at which phase of the research process? We argue that participatory research can only reach its full potential if one applies for example insights of democracy theory to it. In our approach we reject conceptions of democracy that are based on one-sided majorities and polarizations of power. We see the essential indicator for participatory research of high quality in its capability to question power relations and power distributions within the socialarena. This implies that participatory research maintains a critical watch on the reciprocity between researchers and research participants.. It further calls for a transparent method and the possibility for different parties to contribute in order to render the research productive for everybody involved.