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Posts Tagged ‘political deliberation’

Call for Papers

Rhetoric in Society 4

“Contemporary Rhetorical Citizenship:

Purposes, Practices, and Perspectives”

Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication

Section of Rhetoric

University of Copenhagen

January 15-18, 2013

This is the first bulletin of the fourth biennial Rhetoric in Society Conference to be held January 15-18, 2013 at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

With this bulletin, we want to invite you to do two things: mark your calendars and start thinking about how you might contribute to the conference with your scholarship.

Below, we introduce the theme of the conference and provide basic information about the various presentation formats.

Within a few weeks, we will contact you again with more information about the conference program, key-note speakers, and how to submit an abstract.

In the planning of the conference we wish to promote discussion among conference attendees. One way is to set time aside for discussion in all meetings, another is to allow for regular breaks, and a third way is to arrange social gatherings suitable to networking and amicable conversation. We hope you will come and be part of the discussion!

Theme

The theme for this fourth conference on Rhetoric in Society is “Contemporary Rhetorical Citizenship: Purposes, Practices, and Perspectives”.

With the concept of rhetorical citizenship we want to draw critical attention to the ways in which being a citizen in a modern democratic state is in many respects a discursive phenomenon. Citizenship is not just a condition such as holding a passport, it is not just behavior such as voting; citizenship also has a communicative aspect: Some perform citizenship when they watch a political debate on TV or discuss a program about homeless people with their colleagues over lunch – or when, one day, they don’t duck behind the fence but engage their cranky neighbor in conversation about her views on city street lighting. Others enact citizenship when they engage in political debates on Facebook or Twitter or join their friends in coming up with the most poignant wording for a protest sign the day before a street demonstration. And for others still, “rhetorical citizenship” is a distant ideal far from the realities of their everyday life; because the legal citizenship, literacy, and media access that such a conception of citizenship often presupposes aren’t within their reach, their experience with rhetorical citizenship is one of exclusion.

Rhetoric, with its double character as academic discipline and practice, stands in a unique position to engage the linguistic and discursive aspects of collective civic engagement. Drawing on and in collaboration with neighboring fields of inquiry such as political science, discourse studies, linguistics, media studies, informal logic, practical philosophy and social anthropology, scholars of rhetoric are able to study actual communicative behavior as it circulates in various fora and spheres – from face to face encounters to mediated discourse. With our diverse theoretical and methodological backgrounds we hold many keys to pressing concerns such as the alleged polarization and coarsening of the ‘tone’ in public debate, the turning away from political engagement toward smaller spheres of interest, and the general difficulty in making politics work constructively in many parts of the world, not least the EU.

We invite attendees – scholars, teachers, students, and citizens across a range of disciplinary traditions – to extend our knowledge of the social roles of rhetoric through theoretical and critical study, and to consider our roles as public intellectuals: how are we to name, describe, criticize, analyze, and, indeed, undertake or teach rhetorical action on matters of communal concern whether locally, nationally, or internationally?

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International Colloquium “Argumentation in Political Deliberation”
ArgLab – IFL
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa

2 September 2011

Political deliberation, understood as a public debate aimed at forming political opinions and deciding what course of action to take, has traditionally been seen as a prime venue for public reasoning and argument. Aristotle considered political deliberation – next to forensic dispute and public oratory – as one of the three main genres of rhetoric. Today, different modes of political deliberation – from formal institutional procedures in parliaments, to public hearings, to citizens’ conferences, to televised debates, to informal online discussions among “ordinary citizens” – are at the centre of interest in argumentation theory, deliberative theory of democracy, and communication and media studies alike.

The goal of this colloquium is to bring together scholars from these interrelated disciplines to examine the role, shape and quality of argumentation in political deliberation. A theoretical and empirical focus of the presentations and discussions will be on the practices of argumentation. The questions addressed include: How can we best theorize, analyze and evaluate argumentation in the context of political deliberation? What is the impact of the contextual conditions in different deliberative activities on the shape and quality of public argument? What are the typical forms of deliberative argument and counterargument? To what extent is the “virtual public sphere” transforming the way we engage in public argument? Does it allow for inclusive participation and genuine argumentative debate between advocates of various political views? By addressing these questions, the colloquium hopes to provide a focused account of the multifaceted argumentative practices in political deliberation.

The colloquium is part of a project Argumentation, Communication and Context sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT: PTDC/FIL–FIL/10117/2009) and carried out at ArgLab, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

For more information, visit the colloquium web page.

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Now, here’s the thing.  I like Michael Sandel. I really do. (I even met him once, though I really, really doubt he would remember.) He’s done a lot to advance the cause of political communitarianism–a position that I respect immensely though I do not share it–and I generally regard him as a decent political philosopher.

Perhaps that’s why I have such a hard time sharing his optimism that the world’s democratic processes can be positively reformed if we simply replicate the Socratic teaching model he uses with a roomful of highly intelligent professionals in this TED session (or his classes at Harvard) with audiences throughout the world. It’s an idea that doesn’t live up to the rest of Sandel’s body of work.

That said, it’s not as though he doesn’t have a point. In a sense he’s right. We (in the US) generally have lost the art of public debate.  In my view that’s got a lot to do with our media culture, the state of our educational institutions, our particular political landscape at this point in history, and a host of other factors. I’m just not sure that the cure for what ails us is a re-instating of Aristotelian etiological vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong–I love Aristotle’s ideas too; rather more than Sandel’s in fact– but there’s something a bit too easy about Sandel’s approach to political deliberation here. The missing elements of this talk (and here I find myself thinking back to Jim Freeman’s ISSA keynote from last summer) only remind me, yet again, of how much “mainstream” moral and political philosophy could gain through an acquaintance with argumentation theory.

But maybe that’s just me. Perhaps I’m missing something in this talk, or I simply need a hug today or something.

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