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Reflecting on observations of participatory budget schemes in the Andean region of South America, this article argues that the statements and behaviour of those who take part in participatory budget meetings should be understood as a form of public performance which often differs significantly from the ‘backstage discourses’); of participants once they are no longer performing in public. The widespread prioritisation of small-scale infrastructure projects that involve large volumes of cement highlights the ways in which the participants in participatory budget meetings quietly but strategically adapt external schemes and policies to their own goals and strategies.

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