Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

GRAD WORKSHOP - Borders and Belonging: What Makes Democratic Citizenship Possible?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Online only. Please register here.
Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

The Ocean Swimmers: Experimental Documentary and the Humanitarian Logic

Anat Dan (Comparative Literature, Penn)

FROM STREAMING PLATFORMS TO ART GALLERIES, “The European Refugee Crisis” has become a prominent on-screen theme over the past decade. As several film scholars have noticed, the documentary mode has a central role in this phenomenon with high-profile films such as Ai Weiwei’s "Human Flow" (2017) and Jonas Rasmussen’s "Flee" (2021). Concurrently, there is a growing trend of migration documentaries that decenter the human. By eliminating the individual, these experimental documentaries demonstrate a post-humanist aesthetics and ethics, and yet, they do not shy away from the modern project of emancipation. ANAT DAN offers a close-reading of Philip Scheffner’s "Havarie" (2016) and Amel Alzakout’s "Purple Sea" (2020), two films that were made against the backdrop of the Mediterranean crossing in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and civil war in Syria. Focusing on the films’ abstraction techniques, Dan asks: How should we to understand the films’ post-human aesthetics considering both films examining the unfolding events of migrants awaiting rescue at sea? How do the films work through politics of suffering? Do they suggest alternative forms of sociability? And if so, what do they look like?

Democracy Without Borders

Kristin Zuhone (Political Science, Berkeley)

BORDERS PROVIDE A SIMPLE ANSWER TO A DIFFICULT QUESTION: If democracy empowers the demos, how are we to define the demos? But by remaining fixed across issues such as economic globalization, environmental pollution, and migration control, borders compromise self-determination by the relevant communities in two respects: They are over-inclusive for some and under-inclusive for others. Is it possible, then, to have democracy without borders? While many political theorists would answer “no,” KRISTIN ZUHONE instead answers “yes.” As a solution to the boundary problem, she proposes an institutional design that constitutes the demos via a standard that is both non-arbitrary and procedurally democratic. The institutional design contains a procedure that determines the boundaries of collective decision-making, and the institutional design determines the boundaries of collective decision-making internally to, rather than externally of, the procedure that it contains. Thus, she argues, it is indeed possible to have democracy without borders.