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. September 22, 12:00-1:30 pm (Hybrid In-Person/Online)
Room 350, Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics (133 S. 36th Street)
Please register here. Zoom link and links to papers sent to registrants.

Trust Fund Families: Government Policy and Elite Social Reproduction

Doron Shiffer-Sebba (Penn Sociology)

BEYOND ALLOCATING MATERIAL RESOURCES UNEQUALLY BY SOCIAL CLASS, the state also reproduces class structures by funneling families with similar class backgrounds into similar experiences with state institutions (e.g., welfare programs, government bureaucracies, the criminal justice system). Scholars have long demonstrated how the state performs this role in the social reproduction of middle class and poor families. But its role reproducing elite status through contact with state institutions has scarcely been examined. DORON SHIFFER-SEBBA uses six months of ethnographic observations at an office that manages the financial affairs of top 0.1% wealthy elites to understand how the state shapes the lives of elites in the domain of financial management. He finds that a central way the state influences their experiences is by incentivizing them to manufacture a wide range of legal entities such as trusts, corporations, and foundations, to pursue goals like tax minimization. These entities, in turn, bureaucratize relationships between family members and create new forms of privilege within elite families, including what I call “financial multi-personhood”. Far from being absent in the lives of elites, the state shapes both how elites reproduce their class vis-à-vis other social classes, and how privilege is distributed internally within elite families.

Colonial Genealogies of Consociation: Leadership, Pluralism, and the Price of Peace in Contemporary Democratic Theory

Joy Wang (Yale Political Science)

IN THE DECADES OF FORMAL DECOLONIZATION FOLLOWING the Second World War, anticolonial political thinkers sought to realize democratic self-determination through proposals for federated representation, universal suffrage and directed association. JOY WANG chronicles how political scientists went in a different direction, as they reconfigured accounts of social pluralism that had once been deployed to defer demands for popular sovereignty into institutional proposals for the preservation of social peace after empire. Democratic theorists such as David Apter and Arend Lijphart mined interwar studies of colonial administration to advance proposals for stability maintenance through elite cooperation and power-sharing, in what has become formalized as “consociational” democracy and its federal and confederal variants. Hence where democratic theorists have criticized consociational democracy for its tendency to reify social difference, Wang argues that reconstruction of a specifically late-colonial genealogy for democratic theory should instead alert us to its reliance upon elite bargaining and leadership for the curtailing of popular demands in the service of continued social peace.


Wed. October 20, 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.

South to Mongolia, East to Manchuria: Buriat Transborder Migration during the Russian Civil Wars

Griffin Creech (Penn History)

BETWEEN 1918 AND 1920, APPROXIMATELY 40,000 BURIATS, inhabitants of the Russian-Mongolian borderlands in eastern Siberia, fled the violence and chaos of the Russian civil wars by crossing into the relative safety of neighboring autonomous Mongolia and Manchuria. As they exited their homelands in the collapsed Russian empire, rival state-building projects, including indigenous, Soviet, and anti-Soviet forces, competed for power and legitimacy in the region. GRIFFIN CREECH investigates the threats to these projects of state construction that the migration of tens of thousands of Buriats posed by examining state builders attempts to manage transborder Buriat populations. The thorny questions of citizenship, jurisdiction, and sovereignty that this process brought to the fore confounded state builders and limited the institutional options available to them. Drawing on Charles Tilly’s conception of “popular resistance to war making and state making” and underscoring the ability of Buriat mobile pastoralists to shape the contours of an emerging state order, Creech suggests that their migration, born out of the Russian civil wars which were themselves products of competing visions of liberation engendered by the Russian revolutions of 1917, severely limited the viability of non-Bolshevik political alternatives in eastern Siberia. Thinking with Buriat transborder migrants thus reveals the dilemmas faced by nominally democratic political projects forced to construct institutions in the turbulent environment of imperial collapse and civil war.

Rights to Democratic Participation in Times of Transnational Mobility

Anna Milioni (King’s College Dept. of Philosophy)

MOBILE MIGRANTS, WHO FOR EITHER LACK OF THE LEGAL right to remain or for other reasons, do not settle permanently in their state of residence, but move from one state to another in short periods of time, pose a challenge to democracy. ANNA MILONI questions which justice-related reasons we have to value democracy, in order to determine (a) which should be the principles for the allocation of political rights to mobile migrants and (b) whether it would be permissible to replace democracy with some non-democratic political regime in cases of increased mobility. Miloni first examines two influential instrumental arguments for democracy, namely that it contributes to the protection of fundamental individual rights and that it has important epistemic benefits. She defends a weak instrumentalist interpretation of these arguments, according to which the link between democracy and the advent of these outcomes is contingent. She then examines whether there are any additional, non-instrumental reasons to prefer democracy over non-democratic regimes. Miloni presents two non-instrumental arguments for democracy, one focused mainly on autonomy and the other on equality. To reconcile these two grounds, she proposes a Kantian-inspired argument, according to which democracy allows us to relate to each other as free and as equals.


Wed. November 10, 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.

Explaining Popular Attitudes Toward Coal and Natural Gas in Western Pennsylvania

Helene Langlamet (Annenberg School for Communication)

CALLS TO RESPOND TO CLIMATE CHANGE ARE BECOMING INCREASINGLY URGENT, yet we are still failing to inspire a robust public conversation about how our existing social structures need to be reconfigured to support a successful energy transition. HELENE LANGLAMET examines one of the social spaces most responsible for driving up the emissions of greenhouse gases: the extraction zones where fossil fuel energy gets produced. Specifically, it looks at the communities in western Pennsylvania living close to coal and natural gas production and waste treatment sites and attempts to understand the causes of their resistance to decarbonization. Data for this paper are drawn from eleven in-depth interviews with residents conducted over two months of fieldwork in the fall of 2020 and are part of a larger project aimed at understanding how public consent to the fossil fuel industry’s presence in western Pennsylvania gets cultivated. I begin by summarizing the attitudes of my participants toward the coal and natural gas industries before discussing what their responses tell us about the factors informing these attitudes. Among the factors discussed are the local culture, national and global ideological currents, the local media, and efforts by the fossil fuel industry to control the narrative. One notable finding is that partisanship seems to play a key role in the knowledge and value base that my participants draw on to arrive at their judgments about the coal and natural gas industries - something which I hypothesize is driven by politically segregated media diets. I also find that local resistance to decarbonization hinges on much more than just an ignorance or a misunderstanding of climate science, underscoring just how vital ethnographic research of extractive zones will be to any effort to decarbonize.

User Democracy and Digital Citizenship Initiatives

Irina Kalinka (Brown Dept. of Modern Culture and Media)

CONTEMPORARY DEBATES ABOUT THE POLITICAL IMPACT OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS in the West often revolve around a central, limiting dichotomy: Does digital media revitalize or hurt democracy? IRINA KALINKA shifts the focus to show how digital platforms are not only facilitators – of both democratic and anti-democratic tendencies – but also engender their own normative conceptualization of democracy. What emerges is a normative political imaginary she calls “User Democracy,” a technocratic understanding of politics, including the valorization of data and automation, predictability, and systematization. Community and popular sovereignty are here imagined as operational and, thus, potentially programmable, which devalues the need for political contestation, inherent in questions of history, justice, and equality, to play out in a truly public setting. Kalinka explores one aspect of this political imaginary: digital citizenship initiatives, like Google's educational Interland game, which presents citizenship is an improvable and quantifiable skill – instead of a shared responsibility. She argues, in contrast, for an emancipatory understanding of democracy rooted in the political ethos of (digital) agonism, which emphasizes that popular sovereignty is not an object to be facilitated from above, but a continuous, collective process of struggle around what it means to be in common with others.


Wed. December 8, 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.

Unsung Activism: LGBTQ+ Racial Minority Intersectionality, Group Consciousness, and Activism

Kimberly Cardenas (Penn Political Science)

STUDIES OF GROUP CONSCIOUSNESS AMONG RACIAL MINORITIES have traditionally conceptualized group consciousness to be shared uniformly without much regard to the existence of other identities. It is assumed that all in-group members are equally impacted, and it also assumes the primacy of race. However, social movement phenomena in recent years suggests members from intramarginalized backgrounds, particularly LGBTQ racial minorities, are more likely to adopt positions of leadership. KIMBERLY CARDENAS exploreS whether LGBTQ African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans differ from non-LGBTQ counterparts and LGBTQ white Americans with regards to perceptions of linked fate and in being predisposed to activism and preferences for certain types. Results find important variation across intersectional impacted groups by race and sexuality and evidence that LGBTQ racial minorities are more progressive and thus likelier to be agents of change. Political hypervigilance and long standing exclusion on multiple fronts are explored as explanations for these findings.

“Roman Holidays for Vicious Whites”: Riot, Ritual, Fantasy and Transnational White Supremacy

Jacob Kripp (Johns Hopkins Political Science)

FROM THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY THROUGH THE FIRST HALF OF THE 20TH, transnational white supremacy was brought together by the fantasy of an apocalyptic race war. These fantasies imagined a coming Pan-Asian or Pan-African unification that would overwhelm the white world and bring about its end. Race riots were central to accounts of racial Armageddon. In Wilmington (1898); Atlanta (1906); Bellingham and Vancouver (1907); East St. Louis (1917); and the global Red Summer (1919) race riots were seen as both preludes to a greater global racial conflict and necessary displays of white violence to keep Black and Asian people in their place. JACOB KRIPP theorizes these riots as transnational rituals, what W.E.B. Du Bois described as “Roman holiday[s] for the entertainment of vicious whites”. A transnational community of whiteness, a global vision of popular sovereignty that was premised on the violent maintenance of the global color line, was produced through these spectacular scenes of violence. Drawing on Frantz Fanon’s insights into the psychopolitics of violence, Kripp argues that these rituals (re)produced the fantasy of race war through collective racialized affect that projected white violence onto the Black and Asian people who armed in self-defense. Together these rituals of violence (including the January 6 attack on The Capitol) and their attendant anti-Asian and anti-Black fantasies sutured together a global demos of white supremacy.


Wed. January 19, 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.

China International Law, and Ideology: Explaining the Contestation of Liberal Norms in Cyberspace

Rachel Hulvey (Penn Political Science)

IN MANY ISSUE AREAS, THE WORLD HAS WITNESSED A TURN TOWARDS LAW. Cyberspace, however, has long operated as an inchoate order governed by private actors and epistemic communities of technical experts. Rather than relying on formal rules and clearly defined treaties, the United States established the internet to operate as a decentralized order where decisions are made informally. A highly commercialized order extends liberalism when private actors that have an economic interest in preserving free data flows play an outsized role in decision-making. Consensus surrounding the rules governing cyberspace is yet to be achieved, as government preferences for maintaining these norms are hardly uniform. Officials contest the norm of relying on multistakeholder institution comprised of public and private actors. RACHEL HULVEY explains the variation in contestation of existing liberal norms of multistakeholder governance by offering an original theory of socialization. China presents a statist ideology to persuade other governments of the benefits of legalizing cyberspace, attempting to shift cooperation to occur in multilateral forums. Using the submissions and debates from the floor of the United Nations Open Ended Working Group, she uses text analysis to describe the ideological division and the pull of China’s normative tools. The results have broad implications for understanding the vitality of liberal norms and the forces that threaten their longevity.

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

Woojeong Jang (Georgetown Dept. of International Relations)

A HEGEMONIC TRANSITION TRIGGERS A WAVE OF REGIME CHANGES. However, not all states undergo a regime change in the same manner. How can we explain the cross-national variation in a wave of regime changes? WOOJEONG JANG analyzes how international systems transform the domestic political landscape by putting forth hegemonic transitions as a core driver of regime change. States are embedded in hegemonic orders to varying degrees, occupying distinct positions within hegemonic orders. These distinct positions provide different resources and opportunity structures for or against a regime change after a hegemonic transition. Jang hypothesizes that states positioned between competing hegemonic orders – that occupy a “brokerage” position – are more likely to embark on a regime change after a hegemonic transition; they are inclined to accept the authority of a new hegemon and subsequently emulate its regime type. States deeply integrated in a collapsing hegemonic order tend to resist regime changes during a hegemonic transition; existing political institutions are deeply entrenched, and a continued pull of the old order is stronger in these states. The combined contour of states’ position within a current/dominant hegemonic order and an alternative/rising hegemonic order determine states’ regime trajectories after a hegemonic transition. To empirically test the hypothesis, she examines the varying regime trajectories of the former Soviet bloc states after the end of the Cold War using mixed methods.


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 (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.

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.