Should Deliberative Democrats Eschew Modernist Social Science? (with Nabil Ansari & Mark Bevir). Political Studies. Online first: July 2022.

Article available here.

The empirical turn in the study of deliberative democracy raises a problem: deliberative democracy's conceptual premises are in tension with those of the social scientific approaches often used to study it. If deliberation is to function as a source of political legitimacy, we must treat citizens as intentional agents capable of reasoning. In contrast, modernist social science characteristically employs forms of explanation that bypass intentionality. Deliberative democrats thus risk theoretical inconsistency when they attempt to study deliberation using the techniques of modernist social science. The danger is that when deliberative democrats rely on modernist social science, they at least implicitly reinforce a fallacious belief in expertise at the expense of a more dialogic and democratic ethos. The concepts and the practical aims of deliberative democracy seem, therefore, to require a more interpretive social science.  

doi: 10.1177/00323217221107288 

What is a Deliberative System? A Tale of Two Ontologies (with Mark Bevir). European Journal of Political Theory. 22(3), 2023, pp. 445-464.

Article available here.

Deliberative systems theorists have not explained what a deliberative system is. There are two problems here for deliberative systems theory: an empirical problem of boundaries (how to delineate the content of a deliberative system) and a normative problem of evaluation (how to evaluate the deliberation within a deliberative system). We argue that an adequate response to these problems requires a clear ontology. The existing literature suggests two coherent but mutually exclusive ontologies. A functionalist ontology postulates self-sustaining deliberative systems with their own functional goals and logics independent of human intentionality. In contrast, an interpretive ontology conceives of deliberative systems as the products of the beliefs and actions of the actors in the relevant practices – deliberative systems derive from human intentionality. We conclude by showing how these conflicting ontologies lead to different empirical and normative agendas.

doi: 10.1177/14748851211034106 

A Political Theory of Diaspora (with Anna Closas). (Under Review)

Diasporas remain understudied in political theory. However, for diaspora to become a subject of normative inquiry, its ontological status as a group needs to be established. Given how pluralistic and disjointed diasporas are, social scientists have either reified diasporas or disavowed group claims while relying on them implicitly. This article responds to this challenge by grounding the diaspora’s groupness via its members’ joint meta-commitment, a commitment to acting as part of a group without agreement over specific practices. This meta-commitment connects these otherwise disparate practices as diasporic practices, which over time make up an interpretative repertoire with which members understand each other. We argue that these grounds support conceptualizing diasporas as political communities, as the existing plurality within meta-commitments implies the permanent possibility of political contestation over what and who counts as diasporic. This conception opens up questions of diasporic rights, obligations, and democracy that theorists should attend to.

Interpreting Borders (Full Draft Available upon Request)

In recent years, political theorists have expanded our understanding of borders in migration debates, challenging conventional representations. The success of these challenges relies on key yet undefended ontological presuppositions, without which theorists lack the ground to argue whether an understanding of borders is under-inclusive or over-inclusive. This paper argues for the need for an explicit and coherent ontology and defends an interpretivist ontology. Interpretivists understand borders as intentional human practices, the meaning of which can only be interpreted with reference to the beliefs of participants embedded in their social backgrounds. Interpretivism grounds two approaches to borders: a participant approach in which borders are understood directly through the intentionality of participants, and a researcher approach in borders are understood to be heuristics employed by theorists. Taken together, these approaches enable theorists to complicate our understanding of borders along the axes of location, agency, and mode without sacrificing conceptual rigor.

Interpretivism and Social Practices (with Mark Bevir). (Work in Progress)


Diasporic Commitments (with Kennedy Chi-pan Wong). (Work in Progress)