Operationalizing Dialogue Theory

In ‘Dialogue Theory in Marginalized Settings: A Subaltern Studies Approach’, (Dutta and Pal, 2010) propose that dialog in marginalized settings can be used to question the co-optation of subaltern populations into neoliberal agendas, and secondly dialogue can be used as a resistive strategy to engage the subaltern with the spaces of knowledge production that are inaccessible to them. The authors emphasize the importance sincerely listening to subaltern voices, finding the alternative knowledge claims that disrupt neoliberal hegemony and building solidarity with the subaltern.

This approach to dialogue theory in marginalized settings has immense potential to bring about change in the ways knowledge is created and practiced in the academe as well as in society where the Eurocentric civil society maintains hegemony over public opinion and public discourse. Yet, when operationalizing this approach to dialogue theory, certain peculiar issues occur. The subaltern, traditionally marginalized and subjugated, finds herself to be incapable of putting her thoughts in words. In fact language and words are themselves tools in the hands of hegemonic knowledge structure. Yet, this is not to suggest that dialogue is not possible in marginalized settings, but to suggest that bodily presence in the field by a researcher is necessary along with verbal dialogue. I believe embodied dialogue is important for more reasons that one. Besides the fact that the subaltern is often not equipped to articulate her thoughts, she also communicates through body language.

I believe Culture-Centered Approach proposes a way out of the seeming impossibilities, or rather, difficulties in operationalizing the dialogue theory. The CCA speaks about foregrounding the ‘dynamic, contextually situated, and active role of culture as a site of constructing alternative epistemologies that offer alternative rationalities for organizing life worlds’ (Dutta, 2012). I find that there is an acknowledgement of multiple and diverse forms of communication in this approach as it foregrounds ‘dynamic’ nature of culture, emphasizes the ‘sites’ of contestation, and speaks about understanding the ‘life worlds’ which are more complex than what a verbal communicative process can capture.


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