Learning to Listen Agonistically: Dialogue Encounters on the Eastside
AbstractThis essay describes a multi-stakeholder process of listening as a first step toward dialogue among community members in Santa Barbara’s ‘Eastside’ neighbourhood. Already the site of multiple shelters and outreach programmes, the fragile Eastside coalition of neighbours, business owners, and social service providers fractured when a local agency proposed new housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness. Amid this conflict, our initiative for public dialogue and deliberation was approached as a ‘neutral’ third party to help guide a restorative process. This essay is a reflection on this work: The interplay between active community engagement and theories of dialogue, alongside complications from the worldwide pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions. Because of pervasive change, fear, and identity politics on the Eastside, we consider the role of agonistic dialogue in creating a haven to speak, listen, bear witness, and take concrete action toward social justice.