Oxana Jeoung Rakova

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Seoul National U.

Grant number

Gr. 10424

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Jeoung Rakova, Oxana (Seoul National U.) "Co-Designing for Social Change in Seoul: The Ontological Politics of Participatory Urban Governance"

The proposed project undertakes an anthropological study of citizen engagement in the redesign and improvement of public spaces and services in South Korea, particularly in its capital Seoul, as a window to examine the recent transformation of urban democracy. Drawing upon fieldwork in Seoul, along with city development plans and records analysis, and personal experience in Design Governance (a participatory design program established by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2015), I deploy an ‘ontological politics’ theoretical lens and argue that the co-designing practices of various actors’humans such as citizens, policymakers, and professional designers, as well as nonhumans such as design tools, materials, and guidelines’do not simply represent but actively enact new urban realities. Specifically, with its central focus on design-related actors and their practices, this study explores how new forms of citizen participation and citizenship are assembled and mediated through intense negotiation, and how this form of participatory governance changes urban spaces and services. In doing so, this project breaks new ground in understanding the materiality and sociality of urban development processes in East Asia by bringing the emerging theoretical literature on material culture in direct conversation with the anthropological studies of South Korean urbanism and social activism.