Abortion Escorts and Democratic Participation

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My dissertation explores the theoretical value of political participation. I argue that some acts of political participation, such as abortion escorting, constitute "political action" as Hannah Arendt used the term. These acts do not fall under the umbrella of either civil society or activism. A more nuanced account of political participation is needed. This account must include participatory, deliberative, and republican ideals, and it must take political action more seriously than the predominant procedural, communicative, or economic visions of liberalism currently do. Here, abortion escorts exemplify the type of political participation that Hannah Arendt argued was missing at Little Rock Central High School during the period of integration. Arendt called for citizen escorts during integration, and abortion escorting provides a positive example of this behavior today.

Arendt confessed she was moved to write her essay only from a photograph that she saw, and she was criticized for her lack of fieldwork. However, I went into the field to observe abortion escorting. Moreover, while Arendt's factual statements about integration and American racial politics have been somewhat discredited, I argue there are still important theoretical insights in her essay--and in Arendt's theoretical work more broadly--that need resuscitating even if her empirical account is troubled at times.

As such, I use abortion escorts as an example--a means of rescuing Arendt's theory of political action and integrating it into a contemporary body of American political theory that has been both inspired by Arendt and unsettled by her contributions