Angelaki 24 (4):120-135 (2019)
AbstractListening appears as elusive as it is crucial to democratic life, particularly in conditions of structural injustice. Dominant groups benefit from histories and habits of inattention and, when enlisted, common responses of denial, defensiveness, and resentment. What lies behind this pervasive and persistent failure to listen to claims of structural injustice by more advantaged groups, and what does this mean for democratic engagement? This paper addresses this question via three interventions: first, it develops a novel account of listening that reveals why listening to claims of structural injustice often proves difficult. Second, it examines how inhabiting positions of relative advantage shapes whether and how people listen to such claims. Finally, it explores the implications these challenges have for the design of democratic processes that seek to engage advantaged groups regarding structural injustice. To develop this account, I draw together current scholarship regarding listening and structural injustice with original fieldwork of recent and current efforts to engage more advantaged communities regarding a specific form of structural injustice: specifically, interviews and observation of the ten organizations across Aotearoa New Zealand most active in efforts to engage communities regarding socio-economic inequality in the country.
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