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

Graduate Student Workshop Series 2022-23

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.


Wed. February 15, 12:00-1:00 pm
Hybrid: In-person and online. Please register here.
Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

Plutocratic Actors in Education: Philanthropists, Corporations, and Liberal Democracy

Nora Reikosky (GSE and Political Science, Penn)

THE PHILANTHROPIC CONTRIBUTIONS AND POLITICAL INFLUENCE OF WEALTHY, private individuals in the provisioning of public goods has a long and complex history in the United States, one that is both celebrated and contested. NORA REIKOSKY asks what tensions are produced by the discursive and material involvement of plutocratic actors in public education when such actors are not subject to democratic accountability. This is due in part to how inconsistently they are recognized as plutocrats in the first place, thanks to the recurrent framing of their acts in terms of generosity, noblesse oblige, or managerial efficiency. She assesses specific efforts to privatize the state, and especially the institution of public education through public-private partnerships and other jurisdictional challenges, addressing how such activities that disperse political power into private hands raise issues of political legitimacy. Reikosky also evaluates efforts to reform philanthropy, including those that suggest a more limited or specific role for philanthropic actors, prohibiting them from certain issue areas like education, or narrowing their involvement to only that which spurs “innovation.” Likewise, she interrogates interventions to better advance egalitarian democratic ideals, including regulatory changes to tax policy or a redistribution of control over philanthropic funds away from donors.

Bureaucracy, Democracy, and the Realignment of American Politics: 1945-1968

Casey Eilbert (History, Princeton)

AS WORLD WAR II CONCLUDED, AMERICANS LOOKED TO BUREAUCRACY with new alarm, identifying it as the major feature of Soviet totalitarianism, a subject of academic study, and a threat to American life. Drawing on the work of Max Weber, a generation of American scholars held that bureaucracies had an undemocratic tendency to prioritize means over ends, to elevate rationalized, bureaucratic thinking over human values, and to insulate a undemocratic leadership class. Their ideas about bureaucracy were disseminated widely through bestsellers in the postwar period condemning “the organization man” and “the lonely crowd.” CASEY EILBERT argues that the popularization of anti-bureaucracy ideas had lasting effects for American politics. Whether Americans understood bureaucracy as promising or perilous was determinative of their faith in what organizations, including government, could and should do. For most of the century, American liberalism had been based in bureaucratic institutions such as unions and government agencies. As the ideas of postwar social scientists became widespread, bureaucratic political forms were deemed an anathema by political leaders and the American public alike. The New Left embraced anti-bureaucratic critiques, taking aim at labor unions and government bureaucracies as perpetuators of a variety of undemocratic injustices: namely authoritarianism, deindividualization, and racial discrimination. As bureaucratic institutions came under fire, the American political landscape was realigned, with liberals and conservatives joined in a disdain for bureaucratic governance that would give rise to an era of neoliberal governance. 


Wed. March 15, 12:00-1:00 pm
Hybrid: In-person and online.
Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

An Anarchist Horizon

Rosie DuBrin (Political Science, Penn)

 “ANARCHISM” IS COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH CHAOS, REJECTION OF ALL GOVERNMENT, and amoralism or even immoralism. Over the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a form of direct action committed by self-proclaimed anarchists, known as “propaganda by the deed,” surely helped cement these pejorative associations in the collective memory, as well as in states’ private and public records. Still, such connotations largely misrepresent the commitments of prominent anarchist theorists and practitioners. The anarchist tradition is a variegated one, having been (self-) ascribed to those with rather divergent political agendas. Today, for example, we hear of “anarchists” in antifa and “anarchists” accumulating bitcoin. ROSIE DUBRIN enumerates organizing principles of anarchist theory to identify a “family resemblance” among the main currents of the tradition, as well as to help make sense of these currents’ divergences. From this constellation, DuBrin argues for a particular version of anarchism that might have greater political purchase for leftist efforts against neoliberalism than other anarchisms. Contrary to most understandings of anarchism, this anarchism has much in common with democratic socialism. However, it also serves as a horizon to orient and propel democratic socialist movements, urging both sustained popular activity against structures of domination and the reconstitution of these structures from below. DuBrin conclude by identifying some analytical, normative, and political pitfalls of the anarchist version she puts forward. 

Association and the Ethical Foundations of Policing

Kierstan Kaushal-Carter (African and African American Studies, Harvard)

DESPITE WIDESPREAD, VOCAL DISSATISFACTION WITH POLICE IN THE US, no consensus has emerged to answer the question “what ought to be done about them?” Instead, the interdisciplinary debate produced at least four policy pathways ranging from budgetary infusions to legal reform to “unbundling” police services to full abolition. KIERSTAN KAUSHAL-CARTER argues that this policy confusion stems from a submerged debate about what the police should do and why. In a political environment full of commentary about the police, no explicitly normative account of what function police ought to perform exists. Kaushal-Carter offers such an account. By first describing the imperative to live together and the mechanism for nurturing peoples’ collective life, she tethers policing to the fundamental goals of just democratic orders. She then defines the police and policing in a way that (1) acknowledges the distinctiveness of the police authority to use violence without mistaking that authority as an end and (2) connects police conduct to broader goals of well-being and mutual flourishing without confusing those ends for a description of the means. Finally, she argues the police should be internal members of a political community afforded a limited right to collect information and use physical coercion against others to restore or promote conditions for mutual flourishing when an interpersonal violation of public concerns occur.


Wed. April 12, 12:00-1:00 pm
Link and papers sent to registered attendees.

(Embodied) Performance of Resistance on Social Media Platforms

Rabani Garg (GSE, Penn)

SINCE 2008 THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASE IN THE VISIBILITY OF RESISTANCE against the Indian state from a wider cross section of people in Kashmir and on digital platforms, even as digital sites itself are under heavy control and surveillance by the government. In 2019, two hashtags started trending on social media: #DrawForKashmir and #ArtAsResistance. Kashmiri artists and digital media creators on social media have been using their art to not only voice dissent, resist, build solidarity and mobilize support, but also as a way to reimagine Kashmir (and the Kashmiri subject). RABANI GARG looks at posts and stories shared on a public Instagram account by a politically active youth from Kashmir, whose real identity is hidden from us, to explore how she curates multiple identities by often sharing multimodal content created by others (for e.g., TikTok videos, memes).The social media network allows for this youth to connect with other advocates / digital media creators who are similarly invested in the cause– amplifying each other’s work and collaborating. While most of these public accounts don’t have large number of followers, Garg seeks to understand how these multiple handles come together as a counter public. As these public accounts are at the same time private identities, how do these public and private spheres inform each other? Narratives on social media are complex, as multiple audiences can be a part of a single context and the audience can be across time and space, demanding special methodologies to study these interactions.

Digital Technology and Democracy: Open Government and State-Citizen Relationship in Taiwan

Terrence Chen (Sociology, NYU)

TERRENCE CHEN INVESTIGATES THE IMPACT ON DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE by digital technology-driven initiatives that seek to facilitate citizen participation. He uses “open government” initiatives such as online petition platforms in Taiwan as the empirical case, exploring when, under what circumstances, citizens can influence the government’s policymaking process through these newly created channels. Chen draws on several data sources: interviews with government officials and civil society actors who are engaged in open government initiatives, participant observation of open government events and meetings, and statistical analysis. His research contributes to the literature around digital technology and state governance, as well as the discussions about “deepening democracy.”