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The Penn Program for Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism will explore the intersection of sex, gender, race and citizenship this year. | Courtesy of Penn Program for Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism

The Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism has announced its 2016-17 theme year, “Citizenship on the Edge: Sex/Gender/Race.” In partnership with the Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, the DCC — which provides grants and fellowships in this area of research — will examine the struggle of those who have a precarious hold on citizenship due to their gender, sexual and racial positioning.

The DCC executive committee has been interested in the issues of gender and citizenship for some time, they said. According to Rogers Smith, chair of the Executive Committee of the DCC Program, the DCC recognized that “questions about women and civic equality remain very real ones.” The terms “sex” and “race” were included along with “gender” in the title of the theme year since the DCC found that the intersectional disadvantages of being a minority — whether it be in race or in sexual orientation — add further complexities to the question of gender and citizenship. According to Smith, “forms of marginalization of women are often bound up with issues of sexuality and race.” Smith also explained that, when choosing a theme the DCC considered the possibility of the United States electing its first female president this year when choosing a DCC theme year.

Though the 2016 U.S. presidential election was taken into consideration in selecting the theme, the issues investigated are undoubtedly global. The theme year will feature speakers from both inside and outside the United States, covering a wide range of topics in a number of parts of the world. The interaction of Islam with questions about women and civic equality will also be explored in the events of this theme year.

One of the projects of Shenila Khoja-Moolji, a DCC Postdoctoral Fellow, examines the relationship between the racialization of Muslim men in Anglophone media culture and the suspension of their civic rights, as illustrated by the over-policing of brown and black men. Broadly, Khoja-Moolji said her projects through the DCC seek “to understand how apparently inclusive discourses such as human rights and global citizenship often also reproduce marginalizations and exclusions.”

The theme year will include a series of events and workshops open to the public, including a visit from a high-profile speaker nearly every month. The first event is a panel on the U.S. election titled “Politics on the Edge: Sex/Gender/Race in the 2016 U.S. Elections.” This panel will be held on Sept. 22 at 6:00 p.m. in Houston Hall’s Bodek Lounge and will feature four high-profile speakers. Among these speakers are three academics — Jane Mansbridge, Dianne Pinderhughes and Gary Segura — and one journalist, Katha Pollitt.

Professor Nancy Hirschmann, chair of the Alice Paul Center and the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program and director of the planning committee, commented on the relevance of the DCC theme year to the 2016 presidential election: “Race, gender, and sex have, for obvious reasons, become very important to this election.” Professor Hirschmann also noted that “this election has a very different dynamic” and that the panel on Sept. 22 will bring together perspectives from different disciplines in order to have a rich discussion of these topics. Presentations on gender and prison, labor markets, gender/sexuality and disability and other related topics will follow the DCC’s initial panel on the presidential election.

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