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

Graduate Student Workshop Series

EACH YEAR, THE GRADUATE FELLOWS OF THE ANDREA MITCHELL CENTER invite graduate students from universities throughout the region to present their work-in-progress to a critical but supportive audience. The topics are not linked to an annual theme, but each session includes two papers that are thematically linked.  Sessions in the past have been devoted to issues of democracy, constitutionalism, and citizenship, including surveillance, technocracy, migration, race, social rights, empire building, party politics, education, the carceral state, and many more. Faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and members of the public are encouraged to read the papers and attend the workshops to participate in lively academic discussions.



Please register for the workshop here.
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Brian T. Cannon / Penn History and South Asia Studies

CONTRARY TO THE IDEA OF A HISTORICAL RUPTURE that some scholars have employed to characterize the partition of British India, the decades framing Indian independence in the mid-twentieth century reflect clear links to colonial mentalities and institutions, as much as a visible commitment to the ideals of a young democracy. The social institution of caste has proved especially indicative of this fractured political mentality. As the Indian government uniquely politicized caste with the drafting and adoption of a republican constitution, particular communities sought to shape, unify, and give public voice to their caste histories in the hope of securing social legitimacy, high standing, and particular rights and privileges. Later iterations of caste politicization further catalyzed community mobilization, from the implementation of affirmative action schemes in the late twentieth century, to the 2011 re-introduction of caste enumeration in the decennial Indian census. With an eye to this rapidly shifting history pocked by legacies of the past as much as promises of the future, this paper will employ primarily Hindi and British colonial records to chart the consequences of such self-fashioning, in which these groups attempted to craft stable narratives of lineage to ensure social security. In particular, it highlights the divergent trajectories of a host of socio-occupationally related communities of genealogists, praise poets, and performers, who publicly claimed social prestige on the basis of historical association with royal patrons. Though an eventual legal branding of “backwards” caste status marked every one of these groups, some shunned that government label – despite the promise of economic benefits in educational and job security it afforded – while others embraced it. This paper seeks to question why, by more broadly situating its empirical findings against theories on the construction, interpretation, and maintenance of social categories, democratic schemes of social inclusion and exclusion, and the political consequences of bureaucratic control. Fri. January 22, 2021, 12:00-1:30 pm / Claiming Citizenship: Race and Caste in the U.S. and India


Read the paper here.
Please register for the workshop here. Zoom link sent to registered attendees.

Emily Yankowitz / Yale University, History

BEFORE DRED SCOTT V. STANFORD (1857), WHICH DENIED citizenship to free African Americans, the U.S. Department of State’s issuance of passports to African Americans was an important controversy over the boundaries of citizenship. Because there were neither laws explicitly linking passports to citizenship nor federal rulings on African Americans’ citizenship status before 1857, passports offered African Americans unique opportunities to claim status as citizens and to receive federal recognition of that status. This paper analyzes efforts by three African American men, William Purvis, Peter Williams, and Henry Hambleton, to obtain passports between 1834 and 1849. I argue that these men attempted to use passports to stake claim to national citizenship—and in doing so challenged the boundaries of citizenship in pre–Dred Scott America. This essay contributes to literatures on federal policies towards free American Americans before Dred Scott, free African Americans’ efforts to claim mobility as a citizenship right, and scholarship on U.S. citizenship more broadly. By considering the Department of State’s inconsistent responses to Purvis, Williams, and Hambleton’s passport applications, this essay highlights both the federal government’s inconsistent legal treatment of African Americans and citizenship’s ambiguous boundaries before 1857. Moreover, while historians of African American mobility mention passport disputes, they tend to use them as evidence of restrictions on African Americans’ movements rather than as efforts to document or claim citizenship. This study, by contrast, resituates passports within discussions of African Americans’ efforts to obtain citizenship, and in doing so illuminates how many African Americans directly linked mobility to citizenship before 1857. Finally, this paper contributes to scholarship on U.S. citizenship more broadly. None of the leading historical and political science works on citizenship consider passports before World War Two. By analyzing mid-nineteenth-century passport applications, this study directly addresses this chronological gap. Fri. January 22, 2021, 12:00-1:30 pm / Claiming Citizenship: Race and Caste in the U.S. and India


Elizabeth Catchmark / University of Maryland, English

THE UNDEMOCRATIC CHARACTER OF MODERN CONSERVATISM, manifesting in normalized disinformation, white nationalist appeals, and resistance to fair and free elections, cannot be understood without the history of white backlash. This project centers conservative resistance to the passage of the Affordable Care Act as an understudied case revealing the strategic coalition between fiscal and racial conservatives that supports the rise of Trump and the breakdown of democratic norms like the rule of law. As scholars of conservatism like Joseph Crespino, Kevin Kruse, and Jodi Melamed articulate, with the midcentury passage of landmark civil rights legislation and a slew of judicial victories smashing de jure segregation, white Americans divested from increasingly integrated public services. Even with both mainstream politicians, like Richard Nixon, and extremist organizations, like the White Citizen’s Council, disavowing explicitly racist rhetoric in response to a shifting moral landscape, both preserved the key systemic and institutional features of segregation through ostensibly race neutral language, namely states’ rights and freedom of association. The coalition they cultivated, between “respectable” or “race neutral” conservatism and explicitly racist conservatism, formed the backbone of the modern Republican Party in the wake of partisan realignment. Despite this transition to “dog whistle” discourses of racial colorblindness, the explicit racist appeals of the Trump campaign and the white nationalist character of his administration fit neatly into this legacy, as revealed by the link between conservative coalition building and public health policy. While the connection between residential and school segregation and fiscally conservative policy is more frequently explored, resistance to the ACA and other attempts to democratize healthcare is key in strengthening conservative electoral power by emphasizing the shared interests of white nationalism and limited government. Highlighting the relationship between explicit and covert white nationalist discourses is vital to dismantling the influence of white supremacy on public policy. Wed. February 17, 12:00-1:30 pm / Appropriating Rhetoric: Racial and Religious Conservatism in America


Gabriel Raeburn / Penn Religious Studies and History

IN POSTWAR UNITED STATES, IDEAS OF CITIZENSHIP and democracy have been inherently tied to fights against discrimination. Yet, as this paper argues, in the final decades of the twentieth century, religious conservatives effectively reframed these debates to focus on religious freedom and religious liberty. In 1982, the televangelist Pat Robertson bemoaned the closure of a church in Louisville, Nebraska during which police officers reportedly removed parishioners from a prayer vigil. Robertson compared this scene to Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, portraying conservative evangelicals as the new civil rights activists. Robertson and other televangelists argued the most “rampant” area of discrimination in the United States was neither race nor sex, but religious discrimination. Likewise, when the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and other government agencies investigated television ministries for misappropriation of funds, supporters emphasized that they were American taxpayers and Christians who only wanted “equal rights” and protection under the law allocated to other citizens. This paper traces how televangelists and their audiences, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, used the airwaves to popularize the notion of religious discrimination at the hands of the federal government as they simultaneously crafted opposition to new civil rights initiatives aimed at African Americans, women and the LGBTQ community. Evangelical leaders portrayed prosperity and wealth as gifts for the spirit-filled believer rather than a reflection of material and social power, and they simultaneously attacked liberal welfare policy and government attempts to address urban decline. By studying transcripts of religious television in conjunction with evangelical literature and letter-writing campaigns to the FCC and congressional representatives, this paper demonstrates that notions of religious discrimination bolstered support for economic austerity by centering anti-government sentiment. Wed. February 17, 12:00-1:30 pm / Appropriating Rhetoric: Racial and Religious Conservatism in America


Dylan Farrell-Bryan / Penn Sociology

IN RECENT YEARS, THERE HAS BEEN AN UNPRECEDENTED RISE in the number of immigrants facing removal from the United States, many of whom argue for their right to stay in the US and be granted relief from removal. This article investigates the interactive exchange process that occurs in removal proceedings in immigration court between immigrants, predominantly Latino men, and immigration judges, exploring how they construct and invoke the currency of deservingness through ‘good moral character’ and ‘hardship’ while petitioning for relief through the Cancellation of Removal. Drawing on ethnographic observations of court hearings for immigrants facing removal from the United States, I ask: how is immigrant deservingness constructed in removal proceedings, specifically in the negotiation of relief from removal? In this article, I identify the gendered, moral narratives of deservingness that persuade judges to grant relief from removal, finding that immigrant men are rendered more or less deserving of relief and legalization based on their degree of assimilation into the social fabric and value system of the United States and their gendered status as providers for US citizens, and to a lesser degree, the importance of their role as fathers and husbands. Second, I show that judges play an active role in this process of constructing deservingness narratives, using their discretion to shape and evaluate the exchange beyond the written law. I argue that adherence to conventional gendered and moral norms plays a key role in determining migrants’ deservingness and membership, with implications for understanding how the State actively manages immigrant masculinity through a gendered moral economy of removal. Wed. March 17, 12:00-1:30 pm / Controlling Mobility through Narrative and Law: Vagrancy Laws and Immigration Courts in Europe and the U.S.


Jasper Theodor Kauth / University of Oxford, Politics and International Relations

VAGRANCY LAWS, FIRST DEVISED IN 14TH CENTURY UNITED KINGDOM to limit labour mobility, and later adopted in British colonies and the United States, and internal expulsions, used in German states until World War II, were based on vague and flexible legal definitions which allowed local authorities to deploy them against any and all individuals deemed ‘undesirable’ – leading to arrests, banishments, and incarcerations of individuals suspected to be engaged in or in support of politically unwanted behaviour in public spaces. Throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, mobility control laws were used to target marginalised groups, be it the ‘desperately poor’ (Rosenberg 2006:2), ethnic, racial, religious, and sexual and gender minorities, or political activists. Vagrancy laws and similar regulations controlling the free movement of certain groups of citizens within a nation’s territory thus stand at the heart of conflicts over democratisation and equality. By limiting mobility at will, their use set factual, rather than legally defined, boundaries of full democratic membership. Whereas the prevalence of vagrancy laws has diminished in the three countries under examination here since the end of the Second World War, their legacies live on today. Mobility control practices must be seen as instances of ideological illiberalism and as precursors to modern-day immigration control measures. Based on a theoretical analysis of primary documents and secondary literature, this paper investigates the role of internal mobility control in the US, the UK, and Germany in three related dimensions of political development: nation-building, the use of force by state authorities, and democratisation and the definition of democratic membership. This paper aims at providing a broader understanding of internal mobility control, unifying a literature so far primarily focused on regional histories and sociologies, constitutional developments in the US, or the movement of foreigners. It concludes by throwing light on contemporary practices of mobility control and the continued use of British vagrancy laws around the world. Wed. March 17, 12:00-1:30 pm / Controlling Mobility through Narrative and Law: Vagrancy Laws and Immigration Courts in Europe and the U.S.


Indivar Jonnalagadda / Penn Anthropology and South Asia Studies

THIS PAPER FOCUSES ON A PROPERTY TITLE ROUTINELY GRANTED to poor and marginalized slum-dwelling households in Indian cities. This property title known as a “D-Form Patta” is non-transferable and non-alienable accepts as inheritance, hence the author calls it a “conditional title”. The conditional title introduced in colonial India, became a legal instrument to manage economic advancement among specific groups defined in terms of caste identity, income, or location even in a post-colonial context. It relies on ethnographic fieldnotes from the city of Hyderabad which has witnessed at least six rounds of conditional titling to analyze and describe how this conditional legal instrument impacts the political and economic prospects of beneficiary households and neighborhoods. It finds that although state-recognition is greatly desired, people who have received this title experience it as “useless” and “restrictive”. Contrary to offering a path to formal citizenship, or operating as an incentive for enterprise, my paper demonstrates how this dispirited legal instrument constructs a sphere of subaltern citizenship. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in two large slum-clusters in Hyderabad, this paper describes subaltern citizenship as a process by which certain groups negotiate and construct legal relationships with the state starting from positions of subordination and marginalization. By analyzing ten life histories across these two sites, it further examines how subaltern citizenship circumscribes the aspirations and actual trajectories for slum-dwelling households. By specifically unpacking the discourse around issues of titling, this paper explores the tensions between state-agents who expect gratitude for the self-perceived largesse of title distribution, and the contempt of beneficiaries who feel entitled to clear and unconditional titles to land in the city. Thus, arguing that understanding subaltern citizenship, which is starkly brought into relief through the politics of land, is fundamental to unpacking political and economic inequality in India and other comparable post-colonial democracies. Wed. April 14, 12:00-1:30 pm / Negotiating Urban Space: Development, Exclusion, and Exchange


Nick Robinson / Temple University, Political Science

THIS PAPER FOCUSES ON LOCAL RESISTANCE TO URBAN REDEVELOPMENT projects in American cities. Specifically, it analyzes community benefits agreements, which are private agreements that developers enter into with local communities. In exchange for agreeing to support an originally contentious large-scale project, developers agree to a range of community benefits designed to mollify concerns about the effects of negative externalities. Such “benefits” vary, ranging from hiring requirements and funding for education and transportation to protections against noise pollution. And, in particular, displacement has typically been at the forefront of community concerns. However, the most effective critiques of community benefits agreements is that, in practice, they are vulnerable to those with the most political resources to shape in accordance with their private interests. This research analyzes these agreements, specifically examining their heretofore lack of democratic credentials and seeks ways in which they can be reformed to embody their animating idea behind them: Giving communities greater democratic control over the institutions where they work and live. Can these agreements be improved? And, if so, how? Do they have the potential to live up to the claims of those who champion them? What is their potential to genuinely express and reflect the interests of those whom they claim to represent? And lastly, can they effectively embody a reconciliation between strong rights to property and the claims of community? Wed. April 14, 12:00-1:30 pm / Negotiating Urban Space: Development, Exclusion, and Exchange