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

GRAD WORKSHOP - Creating Community: Youth Theater in Liberia and Socialists in Reading, PA

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Jasmine Blanks Jones (Penn Africana Studies)
Public Performance as Global Citizenship Education: You Will Know What You’re Getting by How It Comes Up

Ian Gavigan (Rutgers Dept. of History)
Municipal Socialists Against the New Deal: Struggles Over the City, 1927-1937

JASMINE BLANKS JONES presents an ethnographic account follows youth visual and performance artists as they grapple with the possibilities and constraints of staging local performances on establishing a war crimes court to understand how they are crafting an identity as global citizens. She juxtaposes a standard workshop model of internationally-supported advocacy efforts involving visual artists in Liberia against a typical planning meeting of a local youth theatre NGO with international funding to consider how the youth artists navigate their interactions with international others in identifying and narrating problems and solutions to injustice in their society. Through participant observation and engagement with their negotiations between international discourses/organizations and national discourses/organizations, Blanks Jones analyzes how they are strategic in avoiding being exploited by either and finding agency in both as an instance of how global citizenship education is actualized in informal international education contexts in the global South. She finds that these strategic navigations can be categorized into staged and everyday performances which build upon the concept of embodied cosmopolitanism as a form of global citizenship education.

During the early years of the Great Depression, the Socialist workers of Reading, Pennsylvania built a formidable movement aligned against capitalism. Organizing and running to “repeal unemployment” and implement Socialist policy, they fused organized labor and grassroots unemployed movements in a successful electoral insurgency. In 1935, Reading’s Socialists swept local elections and built the groundwork for a statewide movement, even as, nationally, the Socialist Party began to dissolve. IAN GAVIGAN explores the social base of this working-class democratic and egalitarian vision, the power these Socialists won, as well as the causes of their unraveling. It considers how the U.S. political structure devolved considerable power to cities, but also municipal governments in thrall to state institutions, facilitated their rise and conditioned their fall. Gavigan argues that attending to such local conflicts between the Democratic-dominated New Deal relief state and a successful Socialist Party calls into question narratives of left-wing incorporation into the New Deal Democratic coalition and recasts the process as one of active conflict, in which the dominant party did not simply absorb but also foreclosed alternative possibilities.