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.



Wed. January 19, 12:00-1:30 pm
Online Event: Zoom link and links to papers sent to registrants.
Please register here.

Authoritarian World Orders: How China's Persuasive Use of Ideology Shapes Order in Cyberspace

Rachel Hulvey (Penn Political Science)

HOW DOES INTERNATIONAL ORDER DEVELOP in emerging frontiers of world politics? In the face of rising threats of cyber-attacks and ransomware, governments widely agree that multilateral collaboration is necessary, but contest the details of how to develop a rules-based order for cyberspace. Surprisingly, it is authoritarian states calling for the development of binding legal instruments and advocating for the increased delegation of authority in cyberspace to the United Nations and International Telecommunications Union, when we would expect these countries to operate in a zone of politics outside the law. RACHEL ANN HULVEY explains this surprising outcome through China’s persuasive use of ideology. By framing the benefits of international law in terms that all states treasure – sovereignty and security – China has convinced the group of states most resistant to stringent rules to support the centralization of order in cyberspace. As China elevates the rights and obligations of governments, preferences for international law become associated with ideology and regime type. Using statements and submissions from three prominent negotiations about international law for cybersecurity and cybercrime, Hulvey provides a glimpse of what an authoritarian world order looks like in practice, as China uses persuasion to mobilize an ideological coalition of authoritarian states. These findings hold promise for understanding China’s rise, its strategies for mobilizing support for a new world order, and the ways that new rules of the game, distinct from those of the liberal world order, are emerging.

Networked Hegemonic Shocks: A Hegemonic Transition and Post-Cold War Democratization

Woojeong Jang (Georgetown Dept. of International Relations)

THE RISE AND FALL OF GREAT POWERS PRODUCE A WAVE of regime changes. Why do some states take part in the wave but others do not? During the post-Cold War wave of democratization, for instance, why did some states become more democratic than others? Bridging hegemony studies and relational-network analysis, WOOJEONG JANG argues that the configuration of a state’s geopolitical ties determines its regime trajectory after a great power transition. States positioned between competing international orders, who occupy a brokerage position, are more likely to undergo regime change after a global power transition. However, remnants of a collapsing order do not go away; states deeply integrated in a collapsing order tend to resist regime changes. A combined contour of states’ position in new and old orders, as a function of brokerage and integration, conditions political developments after a hegemonic transition. Using a new dataset on former Soviet republics, Jangtests the effects of brokerage to the US-led order and integration in the Soviet system on post-Cold War democratization. Empirical analysis using parameterization, inferential statistics, and Bayesian updating finds evidence in support of the hypothesis. She provides additional qualitative evidence through a comparative study of Ukraine and Georgia. The finding illuminates how underlying global power structures frame domestic political contentions and bears on the debate concerning the wave of democratization as well as anti-democratic backsliding.


Wed. February 16, 12:00-1:30 pm (Hybrid In-Person/Online)
Room 350, Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (133 S. 36th Street)
Zoom link and links to papers sent to registrants.

University-Led Displacement vs. Homeowner Democracy: The Knowledge Economy and the Black Homeowner in Philadelphia

Meghna Chandra (Penn School of Social Policy & Practice)

MEGHNA CHANDRA INVESTIGATES THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNIVERSITY-DRIVEN development, especially for the African American communities that surround the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Drexel University. She uses the theoretical contributions of W.E.B. Du Bois and David Harvey to conceptualize Philadelphia’s high rate of black low-income homeownership as a result of the struggle of the black workers and communities for democracy and the Right to the City. She conducts a spatial cluster analysis showing that university-driven development is leading to the conversion of single-family homes into apartment buildings and multifamily rentals. In thirty-three qualitative interviews, she finds a vision of the city among developers, city officials, and university administrators that seeks to “bring Manhattan to Philadelphia,” but a contrary vision among long-time residents, community activists, community institutions, and homeowners for whom density is a shorthand for social, economic, and political displacement. Density and affordable housing — and an ideology of urbanism — as conceptualized by city planners, university officials, developers, and new residents, clash with communities’ definitions of what the urban fabric of Philadelphia should be, as well as what truly affordable housing looks like. Chandra shows how resistance to university-driven development, whether it is the movement against the building of Temple’s Stadium, or the drive to “save-zone” neighborhoods by rezoning them from mixed residential to single family, are led by black homeowners to preserve homeownership, and are rooted in the historic struggles of the black worker in Philadelphia.

Connected Citizenship: Racial Hierarchy, Social Networks, and Immigrants’ Political Participation

Stephanie Chan (Princeton Political Science)

THE AMERICAN RACIAL HIERARCHY HAS INFLUENCED MANY ASPECTS OF POLITICS, including public opinion and vote choice. Access to cornerstone facets of democratic citizenship like voting have often been restricted by race and immigrant status. How does the American racial hierarchy influence immigrants’ political incorporation in the contemporary United States? STEPHANIE CHAN argues that as immigrants of different races integrate into the United States, they also incorporate into different norms of political participation. This process begins in the first and second generations and it impacts relative rates of political participation. Social networks reinforce these norms and lead to higher levels of intention to vote and greater likelihood of seeking information on electoral politics but only for white immigrants. Only white immigrants report a greater intention to vote and seek further information about aspects of participating in politics when they are reminded on their interpersonal network. Using the United States Census Current Population Survey Supplements and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, Chan finds that many traditional theories of political participation cannot explain the participation gap between white immigrants and their Asian American and Latino counterparts. Her original survey experiment, which was fielded on Cint in Spring 2021, then tests the impact of one’s social network on political participation. Differences in social network forces for immigrants of different races lead to differences in rates of political participation in key acts of citizenship. The racial hierarchy creates differences in which immigrants’ voices are heard in within American democracy.


Wed. March 16, 12:00-1:30 pm
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.


Wed. April 13, 12:00-1:30 pm (Hybrid In-Person/Online)
Room 350, Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (133 S. 36th Street)
Zoom link and links to papers sent to registrants.

What Kind of Future leaders? An Analysis of Social Responsibility, Citizenship, and Democratic Participation in Youth Leadership

Rehana Odendaal (Penn Sociology and GSE)

THE LAST TWO DECADES HAVE SEEN A NOTABLE INCREASE IN THE PREVALENCE OF YOUTH LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS targeting young Africans. While these programs differ along a range of dimensions – geographic location, definitions of youth, program format to name a few – an apparent shared focus is their view of youth leadership education as a developmental solution for the African continent. By framing youth as “the next generation” of African leaders, and these programs both implicitly and explicitly seek to find solutions to a perceived crisis of leadership, which some argue is responsible for the continents continued socio-economic instability. REHANA ODENDAAL uses discourse and thematic analysis to identify how approximately 200 Youth Leadership for Development (YLFD) programs operating in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa frame concepts of social responsibility, citizenship, and democratic participation. These three democratic nation states are useful case studies because of their economic and political regional influence as well as the prevalence of Youth Leadership for Development Programs in each state. By providing a framework through which to better understand the types of “future African leaders” being imagined by various state and non-state actors in the Youth Leadership for Development landscape, Odendaal seeks to understand contemporary discourses and practices related to democracy and citizenship in the African context.

Realizing the Rainbow Nation: Negotiating Race, Intimacy, and Belonging in the “New” South Africa

Sebastian Jackson (Harvard Anthropology/Africana Studies

IN THE EARLY 1990S, LIBERAL VISIONARIES DESMOND TUTU AND NELSON MANDELA proclaimed that the end of apartheid would signal the dawning of a new and truly multiracial “Rainbow Nation” in South Africa. However, contrary to liberal hopes and expectations for reconciliation and integration, the end of apartheid in South Africa has not led to widespread racial desegregation and racial integration. This is especially true in people’s private and intimate lives. Under the political dispensation of white-minority rule, interracial marriages and sexual relationships were widely considered taboo. During apartheid (1948-1994), such relations were explicitly prohibited by law under the infamous “Immorality Laws,” which were only repealed in 1985. In this paper, SEBASTION JACKSON examines how the social and cultural legacies of apartheid’s race/sex taboo and its draconian anti-miscegenation laws continue to shape public narratives about racial identity and difference, and how these public discourses mediate people’s private expectations and lived experiences of intimacy, romantic love, and family in a nascent democratic society. Jackson seeks to understand how post-colonial/segregationist societies change over time, how globalization, neoliberal consumer culture, and digital media technologies are gradually renegotiating the limits and possibilities of love, transforming social and moral imaginaries, and how the digital diffusion of cosmopolitan values and aesthetic sensibilities are changing local norms, expectations, and practices of sex, dating, marriage, family, and nation-building.