Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Conceptualizing the Tensions: Stories of Democracy from Flagstaff
by Beesley, Kristen, M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2017, 151; 10620052
Abstract (Summary)

Democracy in the United States is in crisis. With trust in elected officials low, corporate interest high, and faith in democratic mechanisms in question, my research turns to how local community organizers of different political ideologies navigate and maintain faith in democratic practice. Gaining insights into democratic practice is critical in order to aid in the cultivation and maintenance of just and sustainable communities through collective power. To that end, my thesis investigates how organizers perceive democracy and work with it at both structural and ideal levels. My research also investigates if organizers consider there to be a tension between the two and how their democratic practices are impacted by this. It is an exploration into the transformative capabilities of democracy and the maintenance in faith in democratic practice within the world as it stands versus the world as it can be. To that end, my research investigates these four questions: 1) How do community organizers from different backgrounds conceptualize democracy? 2) What are the stories that they tell about democracy? 3) Do they experience a tension within democratic practice? If so, what stories do they tell that help them make sense of these tensions? 4) Do they describe a tension between structural and ideal democracy? If so, what stories do they tell about this tension?

The format is a narrative study of democracy and explores the varying conceptualizations organizers hold of it. The information was gathered through one-on-one semi-structured in-depth interviews with seven participants, aiming to gain understanding, insight and inspiration from life stories and a dedication to organizing practices. My goal is to provide varying accounts of ways in which to perceive democracy, negotiating the variety of tensions we, the organizers, activists, educators, and healers, face within our daily organizing practices, and the furthering of future democratic efforts through differing means and commitments.

Indexing (document details)
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Sustainable Communities
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 57/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Sociology, Sustainability
Keywords: Conceptualizing democratic practice, Democracy, Democratic practice, Grassroots organizing, Justice, Sustainable communities
Publication Number: 10620052
ISBN: 978-0-355-24020-7
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