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

Graduate Workshop - Drawing National Boundaries: Citizenship on the Margins

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

College Hall, Room 209 (Accessibility)
Lunch provided.

Dannah Dennis (Anthropology, University of Virginia)
"In the Name of the Mother: Gendered and Regional Exclusions in Nepali Citizenship"

Beth Wellman (Political Science, Yale University)
"Does Citizenship Travel? Diaspora Voting in Africa"

DANNAH'S PAPER, A CHAPTER OF HER DISSERTATION IN POLITICAL ANTHROPOLOGY, documents the efforts of activists to ensure Nepali women’s right to pass on their citizenship to their children in the 2015 Constitution.  The paper shows this project was ultimately unsuccessful because political leaders framed the activists’ demands as a threat to national security, asserting that giving citizenship to children of Nepali mothers and Indian fathers could result in Nepal being overrun by people who are ‘really’ Indian.  This equation of nationality with paternity has consequences that are not only gendered, but also regional and ethnic, as it disproportionately affects the marginalized Madheshi people who live on the Nepal-India border.  Thus, demands for women’s rights to pass on citizenship were subordinated to a logic of nationalism that regards some citizens (men from the central hills) as more inherently more Nepali than others (women, Madheshis).

BETH'S PAPER ASKS WHY GOVERNMENTS INCLUDE or exclude diasporas in elections.  It notes that, since 1990, over 35 African countries have legally extended voting rights to citizens living abroad, but only around 20 have actually enabled diaspora voting in recent elections.  In order to account for this variation, the paper argues we need to move beyond instrumentalist explanations toward a more thorough understanding of formal citizenship.  The paper develops a theory of diaspora voting adoption and implementation that foregrounds partisan considerations and introduces an original dataset that aims to increase our knowledge of this new transnational phenomenon.  As a question of defining the boundaries of political membership, diaspora voting lies at the heart of evolving notions of national citizenship within an ever-globalizing world.