Public meetings and public officials: officeholders' accounts of participatory and deliberative democratic encounters with citizens
Kelshaw, Todd Spencer
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Despite their potential democratic value, public meetings between citizens and officeholders are poorly understood sites of political participation and community planning. Although there has been a recent rise in scholarly and practical attention paid to citizens in public meetings, officeholders' accounts and practices have been largely ignored. Given the stake that public officials have in meetings with citizens, and the effects that their contributions may have on meetings' procedures and outcomes, it is important to inform our understandings of public meetings by acknowledging and describing officeholders' experiences.This project approaches public meetings from a deliberative democratic perspective, which values communicative interaction as the underlying constitutive force of democratic organizations. Recognizing the prevalence of expressive and competitive public discourses in American politics, a deliberative democratic approach focuses concern on how potentially synthetic kinds of talk, like deliberation and dialogue, play out in political speech situations. This dissertation's most basic assumption is that public meetings between citizens and officeholders provide contexts in which deliberation and dialogue may flourish.The project's empirical dimension features case studies of three government-initiated public meetings. The research applies descriptive methods that cohere with the ethnography of speaking approach, and which include participant-observation and interviews with participating and facilitating officeholders. Case reports describe and discuss the contexts in which meetings take place, the kinds and qualities of talk that participants enact, and officeholders' senses of motivations, purposes, roles, relationships, constraints, opportunities, outcomes, and so on. The fundamental research goal is to respond to the general question, What are some of the ways in which public meetings---particularly deliberative public meetings---might take place given our civic milieu and the practical experiences of officeholders?
- Communications