Prerequisites for Dialogue: Subaltern counterpublic as the 'site of

radical possibilities'


Siavash Saffari


The theses of clash have been countered by a number of dialogical solutions (i.e. dialogue among faiths, cultures, civilizations, etc.). In this paper, I wish to raise a number of questions regarding the circumstances, appropriate sites, and prerequisites for dialogue. Critics of the Habermasian deliberation have highlighted such hindrances to meaningful dialogue as innate and structural biases against the marginalized participants, ascendancy of the hegemonic discourse, and bracketing of difference; it is argued that under unequal power relations the conditions for and terms of dialogue will likely be determined by the privileged group(s). While Habermas himself views parallel coutnerspaces unfavourably, others including hook, Young and Fraser see the subaltern counterpublic as a "space of resistance" wherein socially marginalized groups can organize, negotiate their identity, articulate their interests, and even invent a new language for formulating their concerns, ideally with the objective of communicating these concerns to the other group(s) and bringing about change. I will attempt to make a case that to the extent that conditions of dialogue are informed by historical (and prevailing) patterns of structural inequalities, as well as by culturally and socially particular norms and values, subaltern counterpublics are necessary to challenge the hegemonic discourses, and to enable disadvantaged groups to articulate their concerns, and to make their voices heard once in dialogue.


I hold a BA (Simon Fraser University), and an MA (McMaster University) in political science. Currently, I am a doctoral student at the University of Alberta, where among other things I am looking into the indigenous/alternative conceptions of modernity and the critique of intellectual dependency.

Designed by DelGraph 2009 ©mailto:delgraph@gmail.com?subject=email%20subject

Home    About     Speakers     Conference Program    Registration    Contact    Accommodation    Blog     Photos