20th Annual Women's History Conference:
Democracy on the Margins: Gender, Citizenship, and the Global Challenge to Democratic Freedoms


Associate Director, Graduate Program in Women’s History

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20<sup>th</sup> Annual Women's History Conference

Events in the past decade seem to indicate that democracy in many parts of the world is in peril. In the United States, voter ID laws and extra legal tactics work to suppress voter turnout and political actors make decisions based on what might effect their re-election rather than what is best for their country. American distrust of government, and a growing sense of white resentment have widened divisions among an already fractured electorate, while racism and xenophobia seem to be growing. Moreover, Russian hackers appear to have weaponized racism in a way that affected the outcome of the US elections.

The Arab Uprisings of the early 2000s heralded increased hopes that democratic governance would spread in the Middle East and North Africa. Instead, Europe has watched efforts to welcome Middle Eastern refugees turn into a refugee crisis. This crisis in turn has provided fodder for the rise of right-wing populist parties, opposed to extending the benefits of citizenship to people fleeing military conflict and economic hardship in their home countries. Undocumented immigrants in the US, who have paid taxes, worked hard, and did all the things citizens are urged to do are being separated from their families and deported at record rates.

The faculty of the Sarah Lawrence College Women’s History Program make the radical claim that the people who have historically been most excluded from the benefits of democratic citizenship are precisely those who have demanded that democratic nations live up to their professed ideals. This year, the 20th Annual Women's History conference will expand upon college’s yearlong discussion of the theme “Democracy and Education” by examining the challenges faced by those who live, work, and struggle on the margins of democracy. We will interrogate the history of democracy and the interplay between citizenship, race, gender, sexuality, and inequality. We ask: if we agree that equality is an important component of a liberal democracy, what impact does structural and systemic inequality have on an individual’s ability to experience the full range of democratic freedoms? What are the dimensions of birthright and naturalized citizenship? What are the ways in which citizenship is taken from marginalized groups and what are the implications of this withdrawal?