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Drawing inspiration from Hirschman’s work on bottom-up development, this chapter explores the epistemic challenges, and theoretical and emancipatory possibilities of “co-producing” knowledge and civic strategies with communities navigating unjust asylum and migration policies at the US-Mexico border. It describes a way of doing political theory that is “grounded” in horizontal practices of engagement, in which the theorist accompanies struggle and seeks dialogue with people receptive to collaborative thinking and civic action. The case study is the UCSD Community Stations, a network of civic spaces on both sides of the Tijuana-San Diego borderwall designed in partnership with grassroots agencies. These practices of engagement ground Forman’s critical account of citizenship as a fluid, performative concept that emerges in shared practices of living, surviving, and transgressing in a disrupted civic space. While prioritizing local civic identity and action, the chapter also seeks to develop broader solidarities through “elastic” cultural experiments and “unwalling” imaginaries that “nest” local borders experiences in incrementally broader spheres of circulation and interdependence.
This edited volume argues that democracy is broader and more diverse than the dominant state-centered, modern representative democracies, to which other modes of democracy are either presumed subordinate or ignored. The contributors seek to overcome the standard opposition of democracy from below (participatory) and democracy from above (representative). Rather, they argue that through differently situated participatory and representative practices, citizens and governments can develop democratic ways of cooperating without hegemony and subordination, and that these relationships can be transformative. This work proposes a slow but sure, nonviolent, eco-social and sustainable process of democratic generation and growth with the capacity to critique and transform unjust and ecologically destructive social systems. This volume integrates human-centric democracies into a more mutual, interdependent and sustainable system on earth whereby everyone gains.