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Deliberative mini-publics are portrayed as empowering spaces but whom are these spaces empowering?

About this event

Deliberative mini-publics are portrayed as empowering spaces where a group of ordinary citizens representative of the wider population can reach considered judgment and provide recommendations to public authorities. These portrayals, however, need to be interrogated. For whom are these spaces empowering? Do all citizens (or co-legislators) hold equal power to legitimize or endorse a decision or institution? Whose considered judgments and performances are considered legitimate by public authorities and process experts? Which voices and bodies are systematically rendered unheard and invisible as these processes claim to champion diversity?

This paper answers these questions by drawing on various perspectives of decolonial theory. It argues that deliberative mini-publics, in their current formulation and scope, are complicit to maintaining the privileges of White western democratic theory and practice, as well as the dependencies to systems of domination, racialization and exploitation. It examines the scope and design features of mini-publics – from random selection to facilitation to presentation of expert evidence – and demonstrates how these features, despite good intentions, further entrench dominant epistemologies that maintain today’s global racial order. The paper concludes by exploring the debate on the extent to which this democratic innovation can be reformed or ‘decolonized’ and reflects on the role of scholars and practitioners of public deliberation in decolonizing democracy.

Azucena Morán is a Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS Potsdam), PhD candidate at the University of Potsdam, and member of the ECPR Standing Group on Democratic Innovations. Her transdisciplinary work explores deliberative and participatory responses to planetary challenges and is rooted in literatures and theories of decoloniality, political oppression/liberation, and governance in areas of limited statehood. She has previously worked at Public Agenda, WZB Berlin Social Science Center, UNHCR, and the news media.

Nicole Curato is a Professor of Political Sociology at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance the University of Canberra. Her work examines how democratic innovations can take root in the aftermath of tragedies, focusing on cases of disasters, armed conflict and urban crime. She has published three books and over 50 journal articles and book chapters on deliberative democracy, Philippine politics, and research methods.

Seminar series convenors Hans Asenbaum and Sahana Sehgal.

Please register via Eventbrite.

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