Diverse views on citizenship, community and participation

Exploring the role of adult education research and practice


  • Peter Reyskens University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Joke Vandenabeele University of Leuven, Belgium
  • Danny Wildemeersch University of Leuven, Belgium




Civic education, community, participatory citizen, relational citizen, indefinite citizen


In this article, we look at three photographs that each (re)present a space of citizenship and community. In examining each photo, we question our assumptions about adult education and community building practices. In each of the three cases, we adopt the same approach. We start by focusing on a particular place where present-day citizenship nowadays takes shape and observing what is to be seen at this location. This observation forces us to view that particular place in sharp focus and to direct our attention to the specific citizenship practice emerging there. This is an exercise in paying attention, which helps us to take notice of the singular way in which citizenship and community play a role in that particular context. In line with this, we also formulate some critical observations regarding a number of mainstream concepts in policy discourse such as social cohesion, active citizenship, lifelong learning, etc. These terms often represent programmes that close off the space in which an original contribution to adult education can be developed rather than opening it up. In analyzing these three images, we do not aim to construct a fully-fledged theoretical framework nor to develop a method. Rather, we wish to open the possibility of seeing things differently and altering our way of thinking.


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How to Cite

Reyskens, P., Vandenabeele, J., & Wildemeersch, D. (2011). Diverse views on citizenship, community and participation : Exploring the role of adult education research and practice. European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 2(2), 193–208. https://doi.org/10.3384/rela.2000-7426.rela0017

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