I generally tell people that my area is the history, theory, and pedagogy of public argumentation.
It seems to me sensible that people in a democracy need to be able to talk things through–that talking is better than hitting. But, also, talking is better than just voting. There are all sorts of reasons that people of intelligence and goodwill can be mistaken, and I don’t think anyone knows what is best for everyone. So, we have to talk with each other, and the talk is better if it includes people with very different perspectives.
Or, in other words, rhetoric is the art of communities coming to decisions together in a context of diversity and uncertainty.
My research is about what kind of rhetoric does that well, what kind does it badly, and why people so often resist deliberation.