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

Events & Workshops

  • Tuesday, November 29, 2022 - 5:00pm

    Online Event: Please register here.

    WHAT IF FAMILY WAS NOT THE ONLY PLACE you might hope to feel safe, loved, cared for and accepted? What if we could do better than the family? We need to talk about the family. For those who are lucky, families can be filled with love and care, but for many they are sites of pain: from abandonment and neglect, to abuse and violence. Nobody is more likely to harm you than your family. Even in so-called happy families, the unpaid, unacknowledged work that it takes to raise children and care for each other is endless and exhausting.

    As part of the Mitchell Center's Capitalism/Socialism/Democracy Series, M. EDITH SKLAROFF sits down with leading feminist critic DR. SOPHIE LEWIS to discuss the case for family abolition.

    Drawing on her incisive and vital polemic, Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation, Lewis will discuss the history of family abolitionist demands, beginning with nineteenth century utopian socialist and sex radical Charles Fourier, the Communist Manifesto and early-twentieth century Russian family abolitionist Alexandra Kollontai. Turning her attention to the 1960s, Lewis reminds us of the anti-family politics of radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone and the gay liberationists, a tradition she traces to the queer marxists bringing family abolition to the twenty-first century. The event will also address historic rightwing panic about Black families and the violent imposition of the family on indigenous communities, as well as contemporary political iterations of these kinds of violence.

    What Is Family Abolition? A Discussion with Dr. Sophie Lewis image


  • Tuesday, December 6, 2022 - 5:00pm

    Online Event: Please register here.

    IN 2016, PETER FRASE published his book Four Futures: Life after Capitalism, a speculating foray into four iterations of what a post-capitalist future could look like. After the Trump presidency, a global pandemic, and renewed political and economic unrest, Frase sits down with M. EDITH SKLAROFF to discuss his original book and what has proven largely prescient, and what aspects (if any) need updating given most recent history. Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.

    Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game? And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth—but there’s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of “likes,” wouldn’t rise to take their place. A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail


  • Thursday, December 8, 2022 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

    Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk

    A panel discussion with CHAZ ARNETT (University of Maryland) and CHARLTON MCILWAIN (NYU), moderated by ANITA ALLEN (Penn Law).

    TECHNO-UTOPIANS HAVE LONG ARGUED THAT GOVERNANCE by machine would be free of the prejudices that blinker human decision-making. But since it is humans who create and program the machines, there is also the risk that discriminatory biases will get hard wired, and endlessly reproduced, in the technological systems that increasingly mediate our social lives. Our panelists track this process in real time as it has unfolded in the realms of law enforcement and media, demonstrating that the racism embedded in social institutions and that encoded into algorithms reinforce each other and must be addressed simultaneously.

  • Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

    Online only.
    Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

    Freedom of the Hand: Citizenship, Technology, and the Patent Literature in the Antebellum Era

    Ethan Plaue (English, Penn)

    ETHAN PLAUE UNCOVERS THE NINETEENTH CENTURY LAWS AND PRACTICES that prevented free and enslaved African American inventors from filing patents for their inventions. Patent law in the nineteenth-century required inventors in the United States to declare their citizenship in order to receive a patent. After the landmark 1857 Dred Scott decision that denied citizenship to African Americans, African Americans were unable to receive patents for their inventions because they were now considered citizens of no country. Though the patent system in the United States is generally considered more democratic than its European counterparts, Plaue examines the variety of ways that patent law was applied in a discriminatory fashion. By way of a conclusion, he explores how African American writers articulated new models of invention and technology beyond the legalistic notions of private property and the state. Ultimately, Plaue reveals the ongoing importance of entrepreneurship and inventiveness to an American conception of citizenship.

    One Hundred Percent Americans: The American Protective League, Citizenship, and Social Policing during the First World War

    Erica Lally (History, Georgetown)

    HOW DO WE DECIDE WHO “BELONGS” AND WHO IS AN “IDEAL” CITIZEN? During the First World War, the American Protective League (APL or the League), a private group of 250,000 volunteers, had an outsized influence on this question. The U.S. Department of Justice authorized the organization of this private group of “100 per cent American volunteers” to help monitor their communities for potential German spies. However, the organization’s efforts quickly expanded beyond this initial counterintelligence work. At the government’s behest, the American Protective League rounded up draft dodgers, conducted loyalty investigations, vetted applications for citizenship, and policed community morality. Over time, the League’s efforts increasingly focused on social control: monitoring food consumption and hoarding, enforcing dry laws, and shutting down Red Light districts near military bases. In these activities, APL members – mostly wealthy, white men – frequently targeted those on society’s margins: workers, immigrants, and people of color. Using archival documents from APL members and government officials, ERICA LALLY examines the League’s role in policing public morality. Lally argues that League members, though private citizens, not only policed their communities on behalf of the state, but also – in turn – subtly shaped the state’s own understanding of who was an ideal citizen.

  • Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

    Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk

    A panel discussion with BRYNLY LLYR (Celo General Counsel), SARAH HAMMER (Wharton School), and MICHAEL MCCARTHY (Marquette University), moderated by Hammer.

    GIVEN THAT WEALTH INEQUALITY IS DRIVEN IN LARGE PART by the difference in the rewards that go to wage workers vs. investors, democratizing finance so that more of the public can reap those rewards – and, even more importantly, have a meaningful say in investment decisions – can arguably help create a more just society. Emerging technologies, from blockchain and cryptocurrency to meme stocks and NFTs, seem to offer paths to this wider participation in finance. Our panelists lay out the promise of such technologies, but also grapple with the risk, in the absence of other reforms, that they may merely increase the number of bad bets for the masses, while allowing existing inequalities to reproduce themselves.

  • Thursday, February 16, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

    Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk

    A panel discussion with MELISSA FLAGG (Perry World House Fellow) and REBECCA SLAYTON (Cornell), moderated by SUSAN LINDEE (University of Pennsylvania).

    FOR CENTURIES, WARFARE HAS BEEN A SPUR TO TECHNOLOGICAL innovations that have spilled over into civilian use, often with great benefits to society at large. The breakthrough technologies of World War II, and the continued high level of funding for military research that followed, accelerated this process, profoundly shaping our current lives. But the effects run in the other direction as well: as technologies are disseminated and transformed through commercial use, it creates new threats and opportunities for military operations. Our panelists explore both how the military can more effectively incubate new technologies and the implications, in arenas such as cyber, of losing its monopoly on their use.

  • Thursday, March 16, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

    Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk

    A panel discussion with TREBOR SCHOLZ (New School) and JULIET SCHOR (Boston College), moderated by BENJAMIN SHESTAKOFSKY (University of Pennsylvania).

    WHEN SPEAKING OF COMPANIES SUCH AS UBER AND LYFT, commentators often use the terms “sharing economy” and “gig economy” interchangeably, even though they point to diametrically opposed visions of economic life. It raises the question of exactly when, and how, the idea of using the internet to share resources outside of market channels became the practice of employing – and often exploiting – informal workers as a way to sidestep regulated markets. Our panelists address the realities of today, but also the very real possibilities of transforming labor and consumption in the future.