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ESREA Network on Active Democratic Citizenship and Adult Learning

What, if anything, is the role of adult learning and education in fostering active democratic citizenship and the making of a democratic society?

The ADC network is dedicated to exploring these central and longstanding questions through research, debate and discussion of active citizenship by studying and reflecting on these issues. We are currently particularly interested in adult learning in social movements; civic education for adults; the social and political construction of citizenship in relation to various discourses on adult learning and education and the historical and contemporary role of popular education.

The ADC network welcomes a variety of approaches dealing with the nature, possibilities and limits of adult education in encouraging active citizenship and promoting democracy as well as relations between and changing roles of

  • adult education and active citizenship
  • adult education, democracy and democratization
  • popular education and social movement learning
  • adult learning and (active) citizenship, democracy and democratization
  • local, national and global citizenship.

The network is open for all interested and we welcome all old and new members to participate the network activities!

ADC has a Twitter account: forthcoming



Dr Fergal Finnegan, Lecturer in Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University, national university of Ireland. His main research interests are social class, popular education, biographical research and social movements.

Work address: Fergal Finnegan, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth, Co. Kildare, Ireland. E-mail: fergal.finnegan(at)nuim.ie


Dr Henrik Nordvall, Associate Professor, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, Sweden. Nordvall is the Director of Mimer - The Swedish Network for Research on Popular Education at Linköping University. Current research projects include topics such as the educational background of the Swedish political elite.

Work address: Henrik Nordvall, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Linköping University, S-581 83 Linköping. E-mail: henrik.nordvall(at)liu.se


Shared convenership between Finnish doctoral students Jenni Pätäri, University of Tampere (School of Education) & Annika Turunen, Åbo Akademi University (Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies). Both Pätäri and Turunen are active members and contact persons of the Finnish joint research programme Freedom and Responsibility of Liberal Adult Education (SVV). Pätäri´s dissertation “Research - practice relations and the will to knowledge in liberal adult education” focuses on how the Finnish liberal adult education knowledge connects with the society, e.g. the questions of citizenship. Turunen writes her thesis on Nordic popular education focusing on aspects of citizenship from a participatory perspective.

Work address: Jenni Pätäri, School of Education, FI-33014 University of Tampere, Finland. E-mail: jenni.patari(at)uta.fi

Work address: Annika Turunen, Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies, Åbo Akademi University, PB 311, FI-65101 Vaasa. E-mail: annika.turunen(at)abo.fi


Network activities

The network organizes meetings of different nature every second year. In addition members of the network meet on other occasions and are involved in collaborative networks, publications and projects, e.g. PEN, Mimer and SVV.


History of the network

ADC has been in existence since the early 1990s, has carried out numerous seminars, and has been recognised as one of the most active and productive networks within ESREA. Prior to the establishment of ESREA in 1991 adult education researchers from Europe met at the conference organised by Wroclaw University in Poland on the theme Adult Education as a Social Movement. This was effectively the beginning of the ESREA network, which held its first meeting 1994 in Wroclaw, Poland. After that, several meetings were held: in 1997 Strobl, Austria; in 1999 Poznan, Poland; in 2001 Bochum, Germany; in 2003 Leuven, Belgium; in 2005 Tallin and 2007 in Braga, Portugal.

The network was established as a challenge to the breakdown of the East and Central Europe under Soviet influence. Adult education and active citizenship have a long history of interaction and cross-fertilisation. Europe's recent past provides a myriad of examples of a mutually sustaining partnership between the practices and institutions of adult learning, on the one hand, and of active civic engagement, on the other. Think of the coffee shops of eighteenth century London and Rotterdam, the struggle for a free press, or the creation of public libraries and museums, as well as the founding of many local and voluntary associations for bourgeois, popular or working-class enlightenment. Yet if we move from past to present, the relationship becomes much less certain. Is this one more example of a modernist project, now losing its relevance and purpose in a more individualistic and fragmented society? On the contrary: European research into active citizenship and adult learning is flourishing, not the  least because the questions that it addresses are as lively and as challenging as ever. (Introduction, in Bron, A., Field, J. & Kurantowicz, E. (Eds.), 1998.)

The social and political context in Europe has changed radically since the foundation of this network. However, the issues addressed by the network remain crucial to adult education. The network started in a time of democratic progress in many parts of Europe. Today we experience a rise of fascist movements in Europe, growing racism and a situation where democratic and humanitarian ideals are facing many challenges. In the time of crisis in Europe with its economic, social and political dimensions, there is an urgent need to address the contemporary role of adult learning in relation to a democratic citizenship in local, national and global contexts.

Previous conveners (-04/2015)

Michal Bron Jr, Södertörn Univ. College, Stockholm

Paula Guimarães, University of Minho, Portugal

Pelle Åberg, Ersta Sköndal university college, Stockholm



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Last updated: Tue Mar 08 10:46:23 CET 2016