Workshop 22: Deliberation and Its Discontents: Prospects for Argumentation, Dissent, and Critical Engagement in Post-Factual, Post-Deliberative Times
Lisa Storm Villadsen and Christian Erik J Kock
“The essential need, in other words, is the improvement of the methods and conditions of debate, discussion and persuasion. That is the problem of the public.” (John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems)
This purpose of this workshop is to foster a discussion of the role of deliberation in current rhetorical research and teaching.
In an era where social media often hinder democratic processes rather than help them; where politicians in many countries openly disregard or manufacture factual evidence in pursuing ideological goals; where voter turnout, particularly among the young, is on the decline; and where online debate often degenerates into echo chambers or vituperation—where all these menaces loom, deliberative ideals traditionally associated with the rhetorical tradition may seem over-optimistic or just plain unrealistic and therefore irrelevant as guidelines. On the other hand, no viable alternative has emerged, and public disenchantment with politicians’ communication and debate practices appear at least to some extent to be based on expectations building on some version of deliberative norms.
Given this, some meaningful questions to ask are: In what ways do deliberative models and norms continue to represent valuable resources for rhetoric scholars? What are their limitations? And what alternative theories or modulations are needed to adequately address and assess contemporary public discourse in ways that are theoretically, methodologically, and practically/pedagogically useful?
To explore these questions the workshop is organized in four sessions, each combining discussion of shared readings and of participant projects:
- Grounding. (Deliberation theory and contemporary argumentation and political theory)
- Destabilizing. (Contemporary challenges to political communication and debate, e.g. infotainment, fake news, hate speech, echo chambers)
- Engaging. (Alternative approaches, possibilities for and practices of dissent, e.g. trickster-like discourse, non-discursive manifestations, passionate invective, etc.)
- Reflecting. (Trajectories emerging from participant projects, theoretical, methodological and pedagogical).
The workshop is intended for participants at any stage of their career who are working on issues of norms and limitations of public deliberation, argumentation, and dissent. To underscore the collaborative spirit, each participant will be asked to suggest one article-length text to be discussed during the workshop and will be expected to give a short presentation on their project.