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Counterpublic

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NANCY FRASER

  • Feminist Political Theorist
  • There should be full parity of participation in public debate, but almost never within reach
  • Strive for inclusiveness in practice
A STRATIFIED SOCIETY

Society categorizes people into socioeconomic statuses based on income, job, social status

Rethinking the Public sphere

Public Sphere VS public sphere & counterpublics

Habermas idealizes the liberal/bourgeois public sphere

“Moreover, the problem is not only that Habermas idealizes the liberal public sphere but also that he fails to examine other, nonliberal, nonbourgeois, competing public spheres. Or rather, it is precisely because he fails to examine these other public spheres that he ends up idealizing the liberal public sphere” (Fraser, p. 115, second full para)

There have always been multiple publics (and that's a good thing)

ex. Abolitionist Movement, Suffrage Movement, Temperance Movement

Critiques Several Assumptions

The assumption that it is possible to bracket status and deliberate as if we were social equals.

Nearly impossible on a structural and informal level

Structural level

Informal level

"...discursive interaction within the bourgeois public sphere was governed by protocols of style and decorum that were themselves correlates and markers of status inequalities. These functioned informally to marginalize women and members of the plebeian classes and to prevent them from participating as peers." (Fraser 63)

Ex. Black Vernacular English

Other examples of informal barriers?

When did/do we ever deliberate as equals? Is it possible?

The assumption that discourse in public sphere should always about the common good and the appearance of private interests and private issues is always undesirable.

  • Public vs Private interest - masculinist public
  • Ex. "That's a personal problem"
  • Who gets to decide what is the common good or concern?
  • Ex. CR Groups

subaltern COUNTERPUBLIC DEFINED

"they are parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs" (Fraser, p. 115)
  • Thematize status and identity
  • Formulate language and opinion

Which is which?

ASSOCIATED STUDENTS, PRIDE CENTER, MECHA

Considering what we've discussed so far, is the KKK a counterpublic?

Let me not be misunderstood. I do not mean to suggest that subaltern counterpublics are always necessarily virtuous; some of them, alas, are explicitly anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian; and even those with democratic and egalitarian intentions are not always above practicing their own modes of informal exclusion and marginalization. Still, insofar as these counterpublics emerge in response to exclusions within dominant publics, they help expand discursive space. (Fraser 67)

OTHER FUNCTIONS

  1. as spaces of withdrawal and regroupment
  2. training grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics

WEAK AND STRONG PUBLICS

Solely opinion formation or move beyond formation and includes decision making

ACTIVITY: THINK OF EXISTING COUNTERPUBLICS

In groups of 3 or 4, think of a contemporary counterpublic. Answer EACH of the following questions: What makes it a counterpublic? Are they responding to being excluded from a dominant public? Does it thematize identity? Does it formulate common opinion? Does it work towards entering the public sphere? Is it a weak or strong public?

michael dawson

  • Expands/Extends from Fraser's discussion
  • The possibility of a black counterpublic
  • This is pre-BLM (Published in 1994)
A BLACK COUNTERPUBLIC?

Have always existed, but does one exist now?

NAACP & Ida B. Wells

Unique position of non-male Black individuals

RAP AS BLACK COUNTERPUBLIC DISCOURSE?

“If you’re a bitch, you’re probably not going to like us. If you’re a ho, you probably don’t like us. If you’re not a ho or a bitch, don’t be jumping to the defense of these despicable females,” (Ice Cube August 2015)
“There can be no mass-based Black counterpublic if Black women are continually denied the right to basic humanity and voice” (Dawson, p. 221)

Exercise

  • Send me lyrics/links to any contemporary rap songs out there that would constitute a black counterpublic discourse.
A contemporary Black counterpublic?

dangers of contemporary counterpublics

Hyperfocus on identity politics & intersectionality

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