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Finding deliberative niches: a systemic approach to deliberation for conflict resolution

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The systemic turn in deliberative democracy theory seeks to connect specific deliberative exercises to the broader social and political context and processes of decision-making. However, it still lacks empirical foundations to capture the complexity of real-life deliberative processes. This is especially true in contexts where deliberation—at least in its pure idealized form—seems hardly possible, like in the case of deeply divided societies. Building on a systemic approach to deliberation, while addressing some of its critiques, this paper focuses on the preconditions that facilitate the emergence of more or less formal deliberative moments in deeply divided societies. We explore this question inductively through the study of a conflict over fisheries between settlers and Indigenous communities in Canada (Burnt Church/Esgenoopetitj). We argue that in order for a deliberative niche to emerge, shifts in the equilibrium between the actors involved have to happen, either because of external pressures or because, as the case studied here suggests, because of endogenous transformations to the ecology of the conflict.

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This research project has been funded by an Insight Development grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The authors would like to thank Jean Lawson for research assistantship.

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Correspondence to Françoise Montambeault.

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Montambeault, F., Dembinska, M. & Papillon, M. Finding deliberative niches: a systemic approach to deliberation for conflict resolution. Acta Polit 55, 692–710 (2020).

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