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Author Biography

Anna Wiederhold Wolfe (Ph.D., Ohio University) is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Communication at Texas A&M University. Dr. Wolfe’s work examines how individuals use language to create and contest collective identities; how people manage stigmas, emotions, and tensions that isolate them from others; and how processes of dialogue and deliberation build bridges between oppositional stakeholders to facilitate the achievement of deeper understandings and more democratic public decisions. Much of Dr. Wolfe’s current work is conducted in collaboration with community partners, especially local governments, to use communication theory in the service of addressing everyday problems of living in a pluralistic society.

Abstract

This essay develops a theory of public dialogue and deliberation as agonistic resistance to authoritarian governance.Where authoritarian regimes value strict obedience to authority at the expense of freedom, deliberative democracy is predicated on the decentralization of power and the exercise of personal and political freedoms. As such, practices of dialogue and deliberation stand in direct contradiction to the values of authoritarian governance and hold the potential to constitute collective identities in ways that undermine the very conditions needed for authoritarianism to gain traction. Specifically, this essay argues that authoritarianism flourishes when particular in-group/out-group boundaries can be reified, thereby constituting a clear “us” defined against a threatening “them.” However, through the intimate achievement of dialogic and deliberative moments, various social identity roles can be made salient, which can soften group boundaries and help people to feel a sense of immediacy, respect, and connection with those who previously seemed Other.

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