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

GRAD WORKSHOP - Difference and Democracy: Promises and Pitfalls of the Welfare State

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Online Event: Zoom link and links to papers sent to registrants.

Negotiating Ordinal Citizenship: Quantifying and Certifying Disability in India

Kim Fernandes (Penn Anthropology and GSE)

RECENT LEGISLATION IN INDIA OUTLINES A COMPREHENSIVE FRAMEWORK for the rights and entitlements of people with disabilities to state services. However, the process of being counted and legally certified as disabled is at best fraught, due to which roughly 60% of all disabled people in India are not officially certified as having a disability. As a result, despite recent nation-wide attempts to statistically quantify disability in the most accurate manner possible, numerous peoples’ embodied experiences of otherness remain unvalidated. People with disabilities face significant challenges in their everyday lives but are not able to participate in social entitlements largely because their bodies are outside of the margins of state acceptability. KIM FERNANDES examines the politics behind the production of knowledge on people with disabilities by examining the role of state and non-state actors in identity-making around disability and the subsequent production of statistics as bureaucratic facts. She asks, what does it mean to be numerically produced as a disabled citizen? How do bureaucratic structures and medical attempts to make the disabled body knowable influence and come to be influenced by everyday experiences of the embodiment of disability? Fernandes shows the ways in which discourses on counting the disabled population as paradoxically work at once to produce citizens who are managed and made legible within a known category while often continuing to stigmatize and exclude these citizens.

Promises I Can’t Keep: The Fight for the Family Medical Leave Act in an Age of Backlash

Kwelina Thompson (Cornell History)

“MR. BUSH,” REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN MARGE ROUKEMA IMPLORED the president in a 1990 New York Times op-ed, “keep your promise to American families.” Representative Roukema, along with a bipartisan coalition of congressional leaders, policy analysts, and activists, had finally pushed H.R. 770, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), onto President George H.W. Bush’s desk at the time of Roukema’s writing. A veto, however, was all but assured. Still, Representative Roukema reminded President Bush that he had campaigned on “family values and job security,” and that this long-anticipated, bipartisan legislation would fulfill both objectives: social policy for the dawning of a new economy. In fact, the Family and Medical Leave Act, under various headings and sponsors, had percolated through congressional halls since 1984. KWELINA THOMPSON analyzes the emergence of this key piece of labor legislation as it took shape amidst the labor and gender politics of the late 20th century. Despite its significance, FMLA is usually framed as capstone legislation to a long and tortured fight for women’s rights. She argues, however, that it reveals key dynamics not only in women’s politics in the late 20th century but also about corporate structures and the ways in which the nature of work shifted during the 1980s and 1990s. FMLA emerged at a unique time in American economic and political history when service work dominated the economy and women comprised a growing portion of the labor sector. Drawing on congressional records, the personal papers of academics, labor unions, and policy activists, Thompson places the debates about FMLA in their broader context: changing patterns of global industries, labor market shifts, and backlash politics, and dual-earner family composition.