interests, and needs-can be overcome. Yet, both Fraser and Felski recognize struggle and contest among publics. The effort to publicize alternative interpretations of identities, interests, and needs is not a unidirectional process of wider and wider circulation. These alternative interpretations enter into the turbulent flow of discourse as counterpublics seek wider engagement. The dialectical movement of counterpublics and their struggles with wider publics over 429 Communication Theory discursive circulation intimate the fluidity of counter and the limitations of fixing counter in persons, places, or topics. Potential Reductions of Counter to Persons, Places, and Topics In this section, I consider potential reductions of counter to persons, places, and topics to forestall such reductions in future counterpublic theory and criticism. In exploring how these reductions might unfold, I simultaneously consider how reading, criticism, and theory may be implicated in reductive moves, as my examples successively demonstrate potential problems arising from these three modes of inquiry. However, my layering of this conceptual dimension onto potential paths of reductionism should not be taken to indicate a series of couplings, as if reductions to people occur only in misreadings, reductions to places only by critical valorization, and reductions to topics only through theoretical blindness. Reductions to people, for instance, may proceed by reading, criticism, or theory. However, the aims of this section do not call for such exhaustive schematization, as the three potential paths of reductionism that follow may best be regarded as “ominous examples” rather than as efforts to survey widespread developments in scholarly literature. As these comments suggest, my purpose is not to offer a typology of alternative discourse forms. The cautionary tales told here are recounted for their analytic and heuristic value. The point cannot be overemphasized that counterpublics as discursive entities emerge in a multiple public sphere through constellations of persons, places, and topics. Moreover, my outlining of three potential paths of reductionism ought not foreclose investigatior, of people, places, and topics as elements of critical analysis. Before attending to a potential reduction of counter to people, it is important to affirm the value of studying the advocates who engage one another in the “actually existing” public sphere, especially those who act as participants in counterpublics. Focusing critical attention on persons excluded from or disadvantaged in wider public spheres illuminates the experiences and struggles of individuals and groups harmed by putatively disinterested rules of discourse and deliberation. Such harm has not been suffered randomly. One need only be reminded of the struggle for civil rights in the United States to recognize that certain individuals and groups historically have been more likely to be excluded from or disadvantaged in public forums than others. In this respect, critics have faulted Jurgen Habermas’s widely known history of the bourgeois public sphere, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962/1989), for neglecting the exclusion of women and laborers (see, 430 “Counter” in Counterpublics e.g., Eley, 1992; Landes, 1988). Critics argue that women’s exclusion from the historical bourgeois public sphere was constitutive in that bourgeois notions of reason and universality arose in contrast to the subjugation of women in the domestic sphere (Pateman, 1988). In more recent reflections on his earlier work, Habermas (1992, p. 428) concedes that women’s exclusion structured the historical bourgeois public sphere by determining its relationship to the private sphere in a gender-specific fashion. Yet, seeking the counter of counterpublics in persons undermines the public quality of counterpublics. If counter and “group” are coextensive, then counterpublics transfigure into enclaves-not involuntarily through discursive struggle among publics informed by relations of power, but at the moment of critical identification. My example for this potential path of reduction comes from a surprising source: the work of Nancy Fraser. Her description of counterpublics admits at least two possible readings, each with decidedly different conceptual consequences. The first reading asserts a view of counterpublics as social, discursive entities that may not be reduced to the identity of their participants. Indeed, Fraser’s definition of counterpublics, quoted in the previous section of this essay, begins by describing them as “parallel discursive arenas” ( 1992, p. 123). A focus on discourse appears at various moments in her essay, perhaps most explicitly as she recounts the conflictive historical relationship between bourgeois publics and other publics. She notes that “virtually from the beginning, counterpublics contested the exclusionary norms of the bourgeois public, elaborating alternative styles of POlitical behavior and alternative norms of public speech” (1992, P. 116). This focus on discourse persists as Fraser elucidates the emancipatory potential and the widespread benefits counterpublics offer the public sphere generally. Namely, they may assist in expanding discursive space for all participants in the public sphere. When they respond to the exclusions of dominant publics, counterpublics may contribute to discursive expansion because “in principle, assumptions that were previously exempt from contestation will now have to be publicly argued out” (1992, p. 124). Another reading may be gleaned from Fraser’s (1992)work, however, a reading that locates the counter of counterpublics in the subordinated status of participants. In this reading, dominant groups battle subordinate groups in opposing publics and counterpublics. This reading emerges as Fraser asks, “What institutional arrangements will best help narrow the gap in participatory parity between dominant and subordinate groups?” (p. 122). Here, the impression arises that counterpublics may be institutionally secured measures for the greater participation of subordinated groups. This impression sharpens as Fraser holds that the deliberative processes of unequal societies tend to “operate to the advan- 43 1 Communication Theory tage of dominant groups and to the disadvantage of subordinates” (pp. 122-123). Counterpublics appear in these societies as a needed remedy. Were deliberation in unequal societies to proceed in a singular public sphere, “members of subordinated groups would have no arenas for deliberation among themselves about their needs, objectives, and strategies. They would have no venues in which to undertake communicative processes that were not, as it were, under the supervision of dominant groups” (p. 123).Under these circumstances, subordinate groups would be “less able than otherwise to articulate and defend their interests in the comprehensive public sphere” (p. 123). In this second reading, the alternative quality of counterpublics emerges crucially from their population by members of subordinated groups. Critiques of identity politics undermine efforts to identify any particular group as a counterpublic, insofar as the identification necessarily arises from the common identity of the participants. Though she wishes to employ difference as a resource for public discourse, Iris Young (1997) argues that identity-based conceptions founder against the dilemmas of difference. She maintains that these conceptions of group difference invoke an essentialism that coagulates fluid social relations by constructing rigid inside-outside distinctions among groups. Such conceptions imply that all members of a group have the same interests and agree on strategies to promote their interests. Further, Young asserts that identity-based conceptions of group difference deny differentiation within and across groups. She explains that “everyone relates to a plurality of social groups; every social group has other social groups cutting across it” (1997, p. 388). This does not mean that identity is irrelevant to counterpublics. To be sure, social inequality is pervasive and adversely affects the lives of citizens simply because others perceive them as belonging to a particular group. Such belonging, however, which oftentimes cannot be disavowed, is by itself an insufficient and sometimes unnecessary marker of counterpublic status. A reductive reading fixed on group identity compounds this problem by foreclosing emancipatory possibilities: It reifies an often-imposed group identity and denies diverse coalition building as a source of counterpublic participation. These potential consequences recommend a reading of counterpublics that emphasizes discursive engagement within and across publics. A second possible path of reduction consists in viewing particular places as necessarily counter. Possible reductionism, however, does not diminish the value of studying the varied forums in which the public sphere manifests. Inquiry into these forums offers to further studies in the public sphere in two important ways. First, these investigations may illuminate changing historical conditions that invite the expression of alternative perspectives. Second, such attention may bring into sharp 432 “Counter” in Counterpublics relief the unstated rules that operate in a particular, wider forum at a particular historical moment to disadvantage some potential participants. Yet seeking the counter of counterpublics in particular places risks fixing them as productive of only one kind of discou

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