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Deliberating in unequal societies: Liberal risks, performative possibilities

Emily Beausoleil, Massey University

Tue 31 October 2017

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Pluralist democracies take as given that diversity is not only inevitable, but vital to a flourishing and just society. Yet communicating across difference remains one of the greatest demands democracy makes of us, particularly in conditions of inequality. How can marginalised communities speak without being oversimplified, distorted, or objectified by the presumptions and power of dominant groups? And how can what sounds like white noise not only resonate but hold dominant society to account, to challenge and transform that society to become more inclusive, more just, and more equal? This paper uses a case of legislative theatre in Vancouver, Canada to illustrate how theatrical approaches to deliberation offer distinct resources for addressing these challenges. In fact, it will argue that it is not in spite of its differences to conventional deliberative processes, but because of them that artistic performance can serve as sites of democratic engagement between marginalised and powerful groups in powerful ways.

About the speaker

Emily Beausoleil is a Senior Lecturer of Politics at Massey University and Associate Editor of Democratic Theory journal. As a political theorist, she explores the conditions, challenges, and creative possibilities for democratic engagement in diverse societies, with particular attention to the capacity for 'voice' and listening in conditions of inequality. Connecting affect, critical democratic, postcolonial, neuroscience, and performance scholarship, Beausoleil’s work explores how we might realise democratic ideals of receptivity and responsiveness to social difference in concrete terms. She holds a 2017-19 Marsden Fast-Start Fellowship, and has been published in Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, Constellations, Conflict Resolution Quarterly, and Ethics & Global Politics, as well as various books.

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