Beyond Words: Democratic Practices and the Epistemologies of the Oppressed
Lisa Herzog and Just Serrano Zamora
Deliberative democracy, the most important approach in democratic theory, focuses on the spoken or written word: on the exchange of information and arguments, and on the ways in which citizens and their representatives negotiate these to find solutions for social problems and to arrive at compromises for controversial questions. In this paper, we aim at bringing to the fore the value of democratic practices beyond words. The question about their role and meaning for democracy matters not least because of the shift of political activism into the digital sphere, where spoken and written words can flourish, but other forms of expression, especially those that involve human bodies, cannot spread in the same way.
Drawing on the literature on the epistemology of the oppressed and on the role of artistic participation, e.g. through dance, we explore the mechanisms through which more-than-verbal practices can empower citizens and help them articulate problems and develop their agency. We argue that democratic societies need to create space for, and take seriously, the contributions that non-verbal practices can make to democratic life.
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