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The author argues that various familiar models of community engagement used for undoing socially constructed inequities are ineffective because they operate from positivist or structuralist assumptions about identity. Using race as an example, this study introduces two community engagement dialogue practices to the context of Greensboro, North Carolina, — narratively modified focused conversations and narrative restorative community conferencing — each of which is grounded in social constructionism and derived from narrative principles.
This study was conducted as a qualitative investigation using a bricolagic combination of methods. The dialogue practices weave together focus groups, Freirian emancipatory dialogue, principles and questioning practices drawn from narrative mediation, restorative conferencing, and collective narrative practices.
The study reports on the initial testing of both methods during two focus group sessions facilitated in the fall of Using the play as a Freirian code or problem-posing material, the participants joined in a discussion that analyzed the problematics of the Greensboro community that result in unequal lived experience across racial, ethnic, and geographic lines.
The analysis process can also best be described as bricolage. The author also advances his model of granular communications and demonstrates its explanatory value for communications processes and how that model can guide inquiry for counselors, mediators, and community action facilitators.
The study finds the methods to be internally coherent and to be experienced by participants as organic, contextually relevant, democratic, and revelatory. In the context of a Foucauldian power analysis, it is argued that socially constructed divisions in communities, even those that have been legally and violently produced and reinforced over a long time, can best be discussed in discursive and performative terms. This approach also holds great promise for the deconstruction of conflict-saturated narratives, for opening up compressed narratives to fuller articulation, and for building action agendas toward radical community transformation.