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Deliberation, inc.? The professionalization of public engagement in 2020

Tue 28 April 2020

Caroline W. Lee, Lafayette College

11:00am – 12:00pm

Virtual Seminar

Seminar recording is available on our YouTube channel.


This presentation will build on findings from my multi-method ethnography, Do-It-Yourself Democracy: The Rise of the Public Engagement Industry. The public engagement field grew dramatically in the United States in the 1990s and 2000s. Well-facilitated deliberative processes are now a taken-for-granted part of decision-making in many governments, workplaces, and organizations, even if process consultants and engagement practitioners typically avoid much notice. But as public deliberation has become more popular and online tools expand its reach, the field has faced growing pains and new threats to its carefully-cultivated authenticity. I conclude by highlighting comparative research on public engagement professionalization and institutionalization globally, as well as the challenges democracy professionals face in an era of autocratic regimes and increasing inequalities.

About the speaker

Caroline W. Lee is Associate Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Her research explores the intersection of social movements, business, and democracy in American politics. She is the author of Do-It-Yourself Democracy: The Rise of the Public Engagement Industry and co-editor with Michael McQuarrie and Edward Walker of Democratizing Inequalities: Dilemmas of the New Public Participation.

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