Authority and Deliberative Moments: Assessing Equality and Inequality in Deeply Divided Groups


The notion of equality is central to public deliberation, but few researches have examined how participants construct interactions in face-to-face group discussion involving unequal conditions of authority. This study analyses discussion between slum residents and police officers in Brazil, focusing on both reciprocal and hierarchical relationships in the flow of deliberation. It contributes to explain that the expression of authority is far from straightforward. Looking at a range of authority sources (expertise, functional position, tradition, life experience) that serve to situate and re-situate participants in relation to each other in discussion dynamics helps clarifying what goes on in deliberative moments. Findings reveal that personal experiences prevail in deliberative moments whereas functional credentials predominate in non-deliberative ones. Yet, the case demonstrates that functional authority is not necessarily dominative but can be combined with certain behaviors (such as empathetic imagination, search for commonalities and self-criticism) that lead to reciprocal interactions. This study provides important insights for organizing deliberation more effectively in contexts of fear, mistrust and resentment.


Inequality, Political talk, Divided societies, Deliberative moments, Deliberation, Authority

How to Cite

Maia R. & Cal D. & Bargas J. & Oliveira V. & Rossini P. & Sampaio R., (2017) “Authority and Deliberative Moments: Assessing Equality and Inequality in Deeply Divided Groups”, Journal of Public Deliberation 13(2). doi:







Rousiley C. M. Maia (The Federal University of Minas Gerais)
Danila Cal (The Federal University of Para)

Janine K. R. Bargas (The Federal University of Minas Gerais)

Vanessa V. Oliveira (The Federal University of Minas Gerais)

Patrícia G. C. Rossini (The Federal University of Minas Gerais)

Rafael C. Sampaio (The Federal University of Paraná)





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