A one-week seminar for graduate students will be offered at Northwestern University, July 10-14, 2006. The seminar, organized by Professors Keith Topper and Dilip Gaonkar, will consist of five days of presentations and discussions led by visiting faculty who have made important scholarly contributions to the study of rhetoric and deliberative democracy, with particular attention to the question of difference. The faculty will include Wendy Brown (University of California, Berkeley), Bryan Garston (Yale University), Gary Remer (Tulane University), and Iris Marion Young (University of Chicago). Each faculty member will deliver an afternoon lecture, lead a seminar discussion the next morning of readings assigned in advance, and attend a colleague’s presentation that afternoon. The overlapping format enables both student and faculty participants to continue informal scholarly discussion during group lunches and dinners.
The theme of this year’s seminar is “Rhetoric, Difference, and Deliberative Democracy.” As the title indicates, we will be exploring the significance of rhetoric and difference in recent discussions of deliberative democracy. Indeed, while contemporary proponents of deliberative democracy have now produced a large body of practical and theoretical inquires, they have also struggled with difficult questions about the nature of the deliberative ideal. Many of the most pressing of these questions pivot around issues of rhetoric and difference. A number of scholars, for example, have wondered whether rhetoric should be viewed as an essential element of the deliberative democratic ideal, or as an impediment to it. Does rhetoric, for example, advance cardinal democratic values of inclusion and political equality in public deliberation, or does it subvert them? Does it contribute to more rational and reasonable forms of public debate, or does it undermine them? Similarly, questions have been raised about how people do and should deliberate in societies that are characterized, and often riven, by differences of culture, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. What kinds of public reason or discourse are appropriate for such societies? How should these differences, which are often linked to sharp inequalities of power, be engaged? In this seminar we will take up these issues. Our aim is to think about how questions of rhetoric and difference impact recent discussions of deliberative democracy, and to consider how these new avenues of inquiry deepen our understanding of the challenges and possibilities of democratic renewal today.
The summer seminar also will provide a platform for developing future work on a variety of closely related themes. These include a major conference to be held at Northwestern University in May 2007 and an edited book.
The seminar is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication and the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. The Center will subsidize transportation up to $250, lodging, and some meals for admitted students. Via email, applicants should send a letter of nomination from their academic advisor, accompanied by a one-page rationale for their participation to Professor Keith Topper, Northwestern University, Department of Communication Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, May 29, 2006. Other inquiries should be directed to Sara VanderHaagen at email@example.com.
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