The 2013 Anthropology Section Lecture Series continues next Monday, February 25th, when we welcome Norma Mendoza-Denton of the University of Arizona to our offices to discuss her work on American town-hall meetings in Citizen Rage: Town Hall Meetings and Constituent Disagreement in American Politics.
This presentation explores the various incarnations of the public sphere in Town Hall meetings conducted across the United States, including several conducted in Tucson, Arizona, where I have been collecting data on the political public sphere since 2000-2001. I focus on conflict talk, and examine several ways in which political figures handle public conflict and/or confrontations with constituents. Here I examine as a mini-corpus three different instances of naturally-occurring conflict-talk: one from a demonstration in Tucson, Arizona during a Town Hall meeting in 2000 by then-congressman Jim Kolbe, the predecessor to Gabrielle Giffords’ seat; one from a public meeting held in 2001 by Rudolph Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, with public transportation workers; and finally a town hall meeting held by Congresswoman Giffords in Sierra Vista, Arizona in 2009. I note the interactional dynamics and shape of disagreements as issued by constituents and pay close attention to the responses of politicians in handling confrontation. Interactional management in these instances includes not only the issuing of speech routines such as “calm down,” (paradoxically further inflaming recipients) but also other aspects of the management of face-to-face interaction such as gaze withdrawal and gestural ambiguity.
Dr. Mendoza-Denton’s talk will be followed by a discussion by CUNY’s Jeff Maskovsky. The 7:00 PM talk will be preceded by refreshments at 6:00 PM. It is free to attend the event, but registration is required.