Fall 2016, 46.4, pages 308-330
Difference-Driven Inquiry: A Working Theory of Local Public Deliberation
Abstract: Local publics open a distinctively generative space for deliberation, one that can actually use difference, based on race, status or discourse, as a resource—but only if such marginalized perspectives can gain standing and be heard. For difference to gain a voice may depend on a discourse that can delay consensus, acknowledge conflict, and provoke a difference-driven inquiry. Drawing on a study of a deliberative process triggered by issues of diversity within a university, this paper sketches a working theory of community engagement supported by the rhetorical scaffold of a Community Think Tank. It explores the theoretical potential of conflict in local publics while asking how rhetorical activists and educators might support a difference-driven deliberation in practice.