Reclaiming Civility: Towards Discursive Opening in Dialogue and Deliberation

Academic Article


  • In the midst of polarization often linked to incivility and a 'call out' culture, this paper re-imagines the role of civility. Moving away from reductionist definitions that claim civility is either oppressive or merely politeness, the authors argue for a civility that invites dissent and generates discursive openings. In this sense, civility in dialogue and deliberation settings fosters the conditions for managing the dialectic of calling out and while calling in. Arguing discursive openings are a better guideline for productive dialogue than civility, the authors draw on their work to suggest two conditions that foster civility towards discursive opening in situ. First, dialogue and deliberation designers can invite gracious contestation into the conversation through ground rules that prepare participants for earnest disagreement. The second condition that fosters discursive opening through civil deliberation is to bring forth contested language particular to issues and identities, and allow participants to determine the meaning rather than prescribe meanings that ultimately influence identities and policy. In this conception civility is what is needed to incite constructive conflict rather than used to quell conflict. The most important question becomes not was the conversation civil? But, will the conversation continue?
  • Publication Date

  • March 25, 2021
  • Published In


  • calling in
  • calling out
  • civility
  • discursive opening
  • dissent
  • language
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 9
  • End Page

  • 18
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 1