Seminar: "Political Voice of Marginalised Communities" by Dr Aidan McGarry
Across the world, democracy is in crisis with falling voter participation rates and the weakening of political freedoms, including a free press and freedom of speech resulting in a backlash towards globalization, economic liberalism and rising populism. Democracy is built on utilitarian principles which favours the majority, meaning sections of society are routinely silenced and actively excluded including women, migrants, refugees, LGBTIQ and Muslims, amongst others. The inclusion of marginalized groups is a vexing problem of modern democratic societies. I argue that political voice is under-theorised and misunderstood. There is a pressing need to understand what political voice is and why is it vital to marginalized groups as well as to the healthy functioning of democracy. Political voice matters because hierarchies of power on gender, class, race/ethnicity, sexuality are often built on domination through voice, that is, controlling narratives and discourses on what is considered normatively good or ‘proper’. The voice of the majority is used to contain, diminish and oppress minorities. Recent years has seen an increase in people ‘calling out’ or speaking up to challenge certain behaviours and ideas. Even speaking up without being asked is a political act as it destabilizes socio-political processes which conspire to suppress or silence some groups in society and it allows marginalized people to recover dignity after subjugation. Political voice is vital because, as a performative act, it challenges the consent to be controlled by hegemonic power. Political voice is a rupture (Ranciere 1999) to the existing political order. Significantly, the act of expressing a political voice helps to constitute groups and communities, to foster solidarity, to facilitate representation and participation, to demand recognition and respect, to claim presence and visibility, to reject silence, to be sovereign and autonomous. This presentation considers these issues and outlines a framework for a theoretical understanding of political voice and draws on research conducted in Europe.
Dr Aidan McGarry is a Reader in International Politics at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University, London. His research focuses on social movements, protest, political voice, and marginalised communities. He is the author of four books including Who Speaks for Roma? (Continuum: London)and Romaphobia: The Last Acceptable Racism in Europe (Zed: London, 2017). His research has been published in leading international journals including Ethnopolitics, Social Movement Studies, Ethnic and Migration Studies, Critical Social Policy and Ethnicities. He was Principal Investigator of a £250,000 AHRC funded international project 'The Aesthetics of Protest: Visual Culture and Communication in Turkey’ (www.aestheticsofprotest.com) which ran from 2016-2018. Aidan was previously a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, New York in 2013 and at ScuolaNormaleSuperiore in Florence, Italy in 2017. He is currently (2018-2019) a EURIAS/Marie Curie Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in Amsterdam, where is writing a book on political voice.