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Seminar: Legal framework for local deliberative democracy in Massachusetts, USA. Key speaker: Dr. Rebecca Townsend

The Centre for Deliberation at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Warsaw invites you to an open seminar with our guest from the USA, Dr. Rebecca Townsend, the Immediate Past President of the Massachusetts Moderators Association and an associate professor of communication at the University of Hartford, in Hartford Connecticut, USA.

Seminar will take place on May 26 at 15:30 in stationary form at Karowa 18 and online. Below is a description of the meeting.


May 26th, 15:30


Faculty of Sociology, Karowa 18 & online

We will confirm the room after the registration process.

Event registration:

The seminar is open, but you need to register to participate (both for stationary and online form): https://forms.office.com/e/A32ZBvFzbZ

If you have any questions regarding organization, please contact the event administrator: shin.mazur@uw.edu.pl

Seminar topic:

Rebecca M. Townsend will discuss the legal framework for local deliberative democracy in Massachusetts, USA within the municipal legislature known as “town meeting”. In a recent essay for the Journal of Deliberative Democracy, Townsend and Carmin C. Reiss (2022) review the trajectory of this system of local government allowing direct exercise of citizen power via deliberative governance. Townsend will explain the framework of state and local laws that were created to support and direct local deliberative systems in Massachusetts with greater attention to functional elements of the current system in this legal rhetorical history. She will explore the powers of town meeting, including its role within state and federal government, the laws and norms enabling and limiting deliberation, and how and why the legal framework for town meeting has allowed it to endure.

Throughout the analysis, she will include examples detailing how philosophical principles of inclusion, self-determination, fairness, and fidelity to the common good underpin town meeting. She will note the system’s evolution and close with considerations about directions for further changes. The legal framework for town meeting, largely unchanged for close to three centuries, successfully integrates a local community voice into a broader system of deliberative democracy.

You can read the article here: https://delibdemjournal.org/article/id/1136/

About Rebecca M. Townsend

Rebecca M. Townsend, Ph. D., is an associate professor of communication at the University of Hartford, in Hartford Connecticut, USA. Her doctorate is from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and master of arts degree is from Indiana University Bloomington. Her research uses ethnography of communication and rhetoric, often focusing on the cultural uses of “scene” or place, in local, regional, or international contexts. She writes about deliberation and democracy in local government, public engagement, and international rhetoric, whether presidential rhetoric or uses of place in public memory. Her work on the local legislatures of small towns in Massachusetts focuses on how ordinary citizens deliberate about matters that directly concern them and about the limits of their authority.

Dr. Townsend has served as a professor in residence at the University of Connecticut’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and won the inaugural Board of Regents “Scholarly Excellence Award” for the State of Connecticut.  US President Barack Obama awarded her the White House “Champions of Change” award for her research on public deliberation in public policy planning; this work also received recognition from the International Association of Public Participation. She is a Distinguished Teaching Fellow of the Eastern Communication Association. She has taught in Warsaw and Łódź for Clark University/Społeczna Akademia Nauk, also speaking as a guest lecturer for Kracow School of Business within the Kracow University of Economics, Kraków, Poland.

Dr. Townsend has been a Moderator, an elected official in her town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts since 2015, and is currently the Immediate Past President of the Massachusetts Moderators Association. She is traveling to Poland with funding through the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation Fellowships for Higher Education of Present and Prospective Teachers.