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This chapter examines how grassroots community leaders in Porto Alegre, Brazil, made sense of two civic participation initiatives linked to their city’s status as a “leftist utopia”—the World Social Forum and the Participatory Budget—during the final years of municipal government under the Workers’ Party (2002–3). The analysis brings to light contests between “civil” and “uncivil” forms of civic participation: on the one hand, the ideal participant envisioned in the official discourses of each initiative; on the other hand, “on the ground” reflections on participation by grassroots leaders, depicted through ethnographic narratives constructed from interview transcripts and field notes. The chapter argues the importance of highlighting ambivalence and refusal as community leaders encounter discourses of idealized civic participation.

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