Dialogue With Difference: Meta-Representations in Political Dialogue and Their Role in Constructing the ‘Other’


  • Sandra Obradović
  • Holly Draper


When faced with the aftermath of a divisive political event, how do citizens make sense of the political opinions of those who voted differently to them? Drawing on the Social Representations Approach (SRA) and its emphasis on communication as a medium through which meaning making occurs, we utilize dialogical analysis of focus group data (N = 36) collected after the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU. We focus on how voters engage with the perspective of the other in an intragroup dialogue setting. In doing so, this paper aims to explore the role of meta-representations, or ‘what we think other people think’, in contexts of contested political issues. We show the value of considering how meta-representations function to delegitimize different political views and vote choices, and by implication serve an important role in socially representing the ‘other’, constructing and reproducing intergroup boundaries. This process is achieved through drawing on semantic barriers, communicative tools that play a crucial role in safeguarding one’s own beliefs from the threat of alterity.