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Abstract

Academic research on public dialogue and deliberation is abundant and sophisticated. This body of multi-disciplinary scholarship draws on the insights of political theory and case studies, such that much is known about the promise and practical nuances of designing engagement processes with authentically deliberative outcomes. The socio-historical and institutional contexts in which public deliberation is organized and practitioners make their living are less well-studied. This article uses a multi-method study of deliberation as a strategic action field (SAF) in order to reconsider common assumptions about deliberation practice. Based on practitioners' shared experiences and everyday struggles, I challenge researchers to develop deeper analyses of 1) change and power, 2) reproduction of inequality, 3) stability and settlement, 4) markets and politics, and 5) crises and opportunities in the field. Given expanding demand for deliberative remedies and converging strategies and discourses across related SAFs, this new research agenda is a timely addition to both deliberation scholarship and comparative historical sociology.

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