Troubling talk, unsettling silence: the discourse of an inclusive community planning group
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AbstractCommunity development for social justice requires the communication, representation and participation of people at the margins of civil society. The manner in which such communications and representations are heard and answered is critical. Despite many attempts at inclusive community planning and communication across differences, the transformative and democratic outcomes that are sought frequently remain elusive. Rather, the emphasis on cultural diversity habitually leads to a superficial reading of difference that obscures power relations and upholds dominant cultural norms. Little is known regarding how inclusive community planning groups' responses to subordinate groups are socially organised in ways that maintain normative power arrangements, how these arrangements are resisted, and how they are changed. Rarely examined in the literature of inclusive community planning are either, its underlying politics and theories of power, the construction and representation of members' identities, methods of knowledge production, or its communications and silences. This study explores how power is expressed, acknowledged, resisted, and reshaped in the discourse of an ICPG whose minority members had disabilities. A critical discourse analysis of an instrumental case study is presented that is informed by feminist, postmodern and critical theories, and based on data gathered using observation, videotape, documents, and in-depth interviewing. The findings, illustrated with five transcriptions of video clips, show how power circulated among members, positioned them differently, constructed some knowledge as authentic and discarded other knowledge. Discursive practices formed a set of rules that regulated what should be represented and how representation should be made. Knowledge based on personal experience of disability was disallowed and epistemic privilege was withheld from members with disabilities. A final dictum prevented the overt expression of conflict and dissent, therefore, members voiced their concerns in indirect and ambiguous ways. These disciplinary techniques strengthened the dominant discourse of non disabled representatives, and promoted their interests, but not without struggle and resistance expressed in a discourse of self-advocacy from members with disabilities. Power's inscription of embodiment, impairment/disability, knowledge, and silence in relation to wider sociocultural practice is discussed, as well as methodological implications raised by the study. Recommendations for improved practice are suggested.
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