Deliberation for Reconciliation in Divided Societies

With Françosie Montambeault


Engaging with the literature on deliberative democracy, this article contends that in the context of ethnic group hostilities, deliberative processes where participants have a genuine opportunity to communicate and ‘hear the other side’ can be a way for inter-group dialogue and reconciliation. Separating the deliberative process into three distinct moments, it offers a framework for understanding how unequal and conflicting parties may be brought together to deliberate, how to grasp the micro-politics of deliberation, and to understand the diffusion mechanisms that bring society back in. The approach we propose aims to bridge the normative-macro and the experimental-micro accounts of deliberation in order to focus on non-ideal real-life contexts and to offer ‘deliberative lenses’ to study the (rare) cases of deliberative inter-ethnic reconciliation. The approach and the three moments are illustrated by the deliberative turn taken to resolve a conflict between the Innu communities, the Quebec government and the local non-Innu in Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean.


Dembinska, M., Montambeault, F. (2015). «Deliberation for Reconciliation in Divided Societies», Journal of Public Deliberation, vol. 11, no 1, p. 1-35.

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