Chapter

Choosing the Action of Talk

in Talking about Race

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226869063
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226869087 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226869087.003.0005
Choosing the Action of Talk

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Communities across the United States appear to turn to intergroup dialogues on race out of a need to pursue social justice as well as, if not more than, out of a desire to foster individual self-actualization. The politics of unity would predict that instead of talking about race relations, people would choose to build bridging social capital by working together on a common project, in a cooperative, not combative fashion. Pursuing talk about race is also a bit of a mystery because public talk is not easy. This chapter examines why individuals choose to implement dialogue groups and analyzes what their reasons suggest about the functions and uses of such groups. To help demystify this complex political action, the chapter focuses on the explanations individuals offer during in-depth interviews. It turns to Joe Soss's work on participation in the U.S. welfare system for a model of such an analysis. Building on Murray Edelman's work on symbolic politics, Soss investigated the reasons people gave to explain their decision to apply for welfare benefits.

Keywords: civic dialogues; race relations; public talk; dialogue groups; Joe Soss; welfare benefits; Murray Edelman

Chapter.  12110 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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