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Nancy Fraser

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Saved by Dai Kojima
on January 16, 2008 at 10:29:47 pm

Wikipedia entry


In "Rethinking the Public Sphere" (1992), Nancy Fraser says…


The concept of public needs to be revisited   

With: Historiography  

Toward: Social Equity   

Based on: Critical Theory

The public and a public(s) or subaltern counterpublics

-Habermas’ four assumptions (p. 117)

    1. It is possible for interlocutors in a public sphere to bracket status differentials and to deliberate

    as if they were social equals; the assumption, therefore, that societal equality is not a necessary

    condition for political democracy


    2. The proliferation of a multiplicity of competing publics is necessarily a step away from, rather

    than toward, greater democracy, and that a single, comprehensive public sphere is always preferable

    to a nexus of multiple publics


    3. Discourse in public spheres should  be restricted to deliberation about the common good, and that

    the apprearance of private interests and private issues is always undesirable


    4. A functioning democratic public sphere requires a sharp separation between civil society and the

    the state


- “as if”

    The bourgeois public sphere, idealized by Habermas, " was importantly constituted by a number of

    significant exclusions (e.g. women, racialized groups, a lack of property ownership).

    The bracketing differences in public spheres masks social inequity and hinders people's ability to

    speak their own "voice". Instead, Fraser considers public spheres which contestational discourses

    against "the"--singular, masculine, hegemonic public form/are formed by.


-Multiplicity of publics and their functions

    Multiple publics (of women*, racialized groups, non-heterosexuals...etc) always existed. These public

    spheres "function as spaces of withdrawal and regroupment...they also function as bases and training

    grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics." These functions of counterpublics,

    to Fraser, are the origins of "emancipatory potential" that multiple publics offer to the public at large.


*Here's a cool example of a counterpublic of women in the colonial era. I had an opportunity to work

on this project while at Columbia.

"Reading and Writing Women Wiki"http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/portfolio/literature/reading_and_writing.html


-Notions of private and public 

Habermas conceptualized public sphere as space where "private" persons gather to discuss common

interest. But "privacy" can be a powerful tool for the public (of dominant groups) to "delegitimate"

voices of subordinates by privatizing issues as economic or domestic matters, which in turn considered

not worthy of common interests.


This is a rather common experience even within a counterpublic.  Consider the gay public sphere ("as if"

such space is in a sigular form). Disidentification with the main-stream gay image--white, male, successful,

urban and American--could mute others' voices.

1) 219.pdf

2) http://immigration.about.com/od/familybased/a/SameSexPartners.htm


-Weak publics and Strong publics    

Habermas saw the need to separate the public sphere from "civil society", as such autonomy supports

ciritical opinions of the public formed against the state. Drawing on the example of an independent parliament

that has functions of both opinion forming and decision making, Fraser differentiates two types of publics

--weak publics and strong publics. Fraser then suggests that further proliferation of publics might be achieved

through interactions between weak publics (external, opinion forming) and strong publics (internal, self-managing).




-How do we avoid cultural relativism or fragmentation? Is accountability enough?

-How is a counterpublic formed and mediated (connection to Warner)?

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