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The silencing of radical democracy in American community development: the struggle of identities

Emejulu, A. (2010) The silencing of radical democracy in American community development: the struggle of identities. Community Development Journal. ISSN 0010-3802

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Abstract

This paper attempts to understand how 1968 as a transformative historical moment has influenced the discourses and identity constructions of community development in the United States. Using a post-structuralist discursive analytical framework, the paper examines the nature and structure of community development discourses as reproduced in the language and social practices of the militant wing of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, the early Black Power movement, Alinskyism and the Johnson Administration's War on Poverty. Rather than community development being constituted by radical democracy, this paper argues that community development is dominated by hierarchical and unequal ideas and practices which invest the professional subject with agency and construct local people as passive objects. The paper explores how the radical democratic practices have been silenced from 1968 onwards and as a result how contemporary community development discourses may be reproducing highly problematic ideas and practices which undermine rather than support community development's goal of achieving equality and social justice for marginalized groups.