Michael Lempert

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10079

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Lempert, Michael (University of Michigan) "Democratic Listening: From Deliberation to Cancellation at the Post-Liberal University"

MICHAEL LEMPERT, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, was awarded funding in April 2021 to aid research on “Democratic Listening: From Deliberation to Cancellation at the Post-Liberal University.” Online and off, and across the political spectrum, people ask whether “canceling” individuals curtails free speech and is bad for liberalism or whether such selective disengagement upholds liberal-democratic values by stopping harmful speech and amplifying marginalized voices. These debates focus on expression even as they rely on unexamined semiotic ideologies of reception — about when, how, and why to listen. This two-year, team-based ethnography explored tensions surrounding interpersonal and institutional listening on a US campus. For the interpersonal, we investigated “pedagogies of audition”–efforts to teach people how to listen–in a range of sites, such as “active bystander trainings,” anti-racist and DEI-themed workshops, a student group that promotes “listening” to counter polarization, and classes in intergroup relations that teach undergraduates how to facilitate dialogues across difference. On institutional listening, we investigated efforts to listen well to complaints of sex and gender-based misconduct. We studied the university’s reporting infrastructure for Title IX compliance. As we examined how the university tries to shape interpersonal relations through training modules, workshops, and other forms of (re)education, and as it seeks to discipline improper relations through reporting and investigation, we considered how this university endeavors to communicate that it, too, is “listening well.”