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Talking across boundaries: interracial deliberation Beauvais, Edana


The purpose of my work is to clarify the contingencies that enable the normative expectations of deliberative democracy in the context of interracial deliberation, as well as to understand the conditions under which deliberation contributes to the contrary, and catalyzes racial prejudice and group polarisation. I argue that understanding how interracial deliberation can promote the expectations of deliberative theory, such as the identification of common interests or mutual-recognition across racial divides, entails understanding the context under which discourse takes place. For instance, I show that communication between members of different races is less likely to promote beneficial outcomes when discussion partners suffer from economic or material insecurity, and if resultant interracial interactions are characterized by fear, distrust, or hatred. The role of emotions is central to my understanding of the possibility for successful discourse. In this piece I justify the use of deliberative theory as a framework for understanding race-relations and white values and opinions. I also consider the macro-level antecedents to affect; that is, I consider the structural features of American society that shape the feelings whites harbour toward blacks. The importance of affect for deliberation is reviewed. The effects of interracial socialisation and diversity in communication networks on value and opinion formation are also considered. In this piece I employ original research to clarify the relationship between affect, interracial socialisation, and the racial attitudes of whites. Using data from the Detroit Area Study (2004) I find that variables measuring both the social and economic well-being of neighbourhoods, as well as a variable measuring beliefs about ‘special favours’ for blacks, have a significant impact on the feelings whites harbour toward blacks.

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