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Building Trust in Expert Settings: An Analysis of Miami's Sea Level Rise Committee

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-1-80117-781-8, eISBN: 978-1-80117-780-1

Publication date: 10 November 2021


Modern societies are imbued with a fundamental tension of expertise, as expert status is both a source of authority and channel of wider public trust. Scholars of expertise have shown, though, that the public often lacks trust in experts, something which often occurs alongside politicized social problems. I argue that there are contexts in which expert–public interactions may facilitate trust-building processes even amidst the politicization of problems in which experts are attempting to manage. I refer to this as “negotiated expertise,” when communities with divergent sensibilities of problems (re)construct the rules and norms of expertise in ways that build trust and facilitate cooperative and collective action. This builds on an interactionist understanding of trust and expertise, focusing on the ways in which communities negotiate the meanings, rules, and norms of expert settings. Through a qualitative analysis of Miami's Sea Level Rise Committee, I identify two key factors that facilitate trust-building in expert–public interactions: an emergent socioenvironmental problem and “advocacy-experts.” I suggest that these contexts and factors enabled Miamians to work toward reciprocal practices and understandings, unexpectantly building trust in a politicized setting.



Kiefer, M. (2021), "Building Trust in Expert Settings: An Analysis of Miami's Sea Level Rise Committee", Denzin, N.K. and Sarina Chen, S.-L. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 53), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 65-89.



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