Research

Current research Interests 

Professor Heath and Borda have developed ideas around what civility means in dialogue and deliberation.  

Reclaiming Civility as Discursive Opening    

Abstract  

In the midst of polarization often linked to incivility and a “call out” culture, this paper re-imagines the role of civility. Moving away from reductionist definitions that claim civility is either oppressive or merely politeness, the authors argue for a civility that invites dissent and generates discursive openings. In this sense, civility in dialogue and deliberation settings fosters the conditions for managing the dialectic of calling out and while calling in. Arguing discursive openings are a better guideline for productive dialogue than civility, the authors draw on their work as pracademics to suggest two conditions that foster civility towards discursive opening in situ. First, dialogue and deliberation designers can invite gracious contestation into the conversation through ground rules that prepare participants for earnest disagreement. The second condition that fosters discursive opening through civil deliberation is to bring forth contested language particular to issues and identities, and allow participants to determine the meaning rather than prescribe meanings that ultimately influence identities and policy. In this conception civility is what is needed to incite constructive conflict rather than used to quell conflict. The most important question becomes not was the conversation civil? But, will the conversation continue?

Professor Borda, Heath, and Reinig are researching the dynamics of dialouge in a highly polarized political climate.

Tendering Dialouge Across Polarizing Politics

Abstract

In a highly polarized political climate in which discourses of tribalism and incivility overshadow the desire for citizens to work together, many fatigued citizens question their fellow citizens' capacity to engage in meaningful civic conversations (Americans Struggle, 2016). In this essay, we seek to offer hope by exploring how participants themselves discursively invite participation from others and seek dialogic conversation within semi-structured public dialogues. We found that despite this highly polarized climate, college students (with little training and only minimal deliberative structure) demonstrated a dialogic ethic in their approach to value differences prompted in the For Freedoms public dialogue. In particular, we found the interaction among students of disparate political identities, including but not limited to Libertarian, Republican, and Democratic Socialist, and from different majors, illuminated particular discursive practices that foster dialogic conversation through reciprocity, symmetry, vulnerability, and earnestness. In this research, we theorize the ways students and student facilitators "tendered" discursive openings, invited contrary opinions, and broadened singular understandings of relevant constructs.