Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

Laura R. Woliver


Through an exploration of grassroots challenges to shallow democracy in South Carolina, this dissertation offers a model of democratization based on inclusion, deliberation, and empowerment as a remedy for democratic insufficiency. I posit that greater emphasis on inclusive democratic deliberation, both inside and outside formal political structures, will help deepen the South’s shallow democracy, and that inclusive deliberation fostered through grassroots organizing that priorities consciousness raising, empowerment, and activism training will positively affect participants, deliberation, and policy outcomes. Taking a grounded theory approach, I consider case studies of three organizations based in Columbia, South Carolina, and their attending theories of democratization: The Modjeska Simkins School for Human Rights (democratization through education); Tell Them (democratization through praxis); and Girls Rock Columbia (democratization through affirmation). The experiences of these organizations offer insights into how relatively small, locally-based organizations can deepen democracy by vii confronting traditional barriers to inclusive democratic deliberation. Through education, praxis, and affirmation, these groups give politically underrepresented people the tools they need to become self-advocates. More importantly, through consciousness raising and empowerment, the organizations lend a sense of authority to the potentially powerless. Finally, by imbuing participants with feelings of agency and authority, the organizations work to create a more representative, comprehensive body for future democratic deliberations. Individuals who are able (and willing) to advocate for themselves enhance the quality of democracy at each level of government, as well as in the nongovernmental aspects of their day-to-day lives. The inclusive grassroots work that the Modjeska Simkins School, Tell Them, and Girls Rock do is directly in support of this. Each of the democratic elements I consider here (inclusion, deliberation, and voice) benefit from the incorporation of the other two. Ultimately, I find that a meaningfully deepened democracy requires inclusive deliberation that lifts up and empowers the quiet voices.