When political talk slows down: An analysis of informal political talk in contrasted public spaces


Promoteurs : Min Reuchamps et Virginie Van Ingelgom
Financement : FNRS Aspirant

How citizens talk politics matters. When political talk is ‘fast’ and based on intuitions, it tends to provoke negative attitudes towards politics. However, when it is ‘slow’ and involves a give-and-take of arguments, it can make citizens less dismissive of politics and help them to process complex information and form considered judgments. Empirical work has examined extensively when political talk among citizens is ‘deliberative’ (read: slow) in formal venues such as public consultations and focus groups. Yet, most political conversations among citizens are informal and hence occur outside of these formal settings. We still know surprisingly little about the conditions that make such informal talk deliberative. This project seeks to address this gap and asks: Under what conditions is informal political talk deliberative? It consists of two work packages (WPs) that involve ethnographic fieldwork in workplaces and community organizations in two countries with contrasting communicative norms and democratic trajectories: the Netherlands (WP1) and Peru (WP2). I will use participant observation to study the informal conversations about politics that citizens have at the water dispenser at work or, for instance, during a drink of their community organization. The project has two main goals: (1) identify the combinations of conditions (i.e. configurations) that are associated with deliberative informal political talk; and (2) examine which of these conditions are necessary and/or sufficient for it to occur. To this end, I will use Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to analyze the gathered evidence. All in all, the project seeks to offer a more contextualized answer to the question ‘when informal political talk slows down’.