Graduate Salon: Susanne Schwarz and Shelby Sinclair

Feb 22, 2019, 12:00 pm1:20 pm
McCosh Hall, Room 40
Program in American Studies
Event Description

Susanne Schwarz

In modern democracies, the provision of social welfare is one of the main functions that the state takes on. Yet, both the scope and nature of welfare state policies vary considerably across place and time. Susanne’s project asks how ideational discourse has shaped welfare policy regimes over time, with a particular focus on the United States. Ideas can play an important role in policy development: they can alter how we perceive the nature of the social problem at hand and affect the solutions we propose to solve it. What is more, ideational frameworks can help explain why some welfare policies remain relatively unchallenged — and unchanged — over time while others are highly contested and eventually abandoned. And ideational discourse can shed light on the emergence (or the lack thereof) of social and political mobilization to change welfare policy-related legislation. Using a mix of archival work, interviews with welfare recipients, and survey research, Susanne seeks to understand what ideas underpin various welfare policy regimes in the U.S. (e.g. old-age assistance, poverty relief, affordable housing policy), and how these ideas have influenced the political development of these policy regimes.

Shelby Sinclair

In 1831, Maria W. Stewart boldly went where no woman in recorded American history had ever gone: behind a podium. In an impassioned display of righteous discontent she spoke publicly to an audience of men and women, urging them to preserve their intellectual production and determine their historical legacy for themselves. The specter of Stewart’s exhortation to leave extant text never quite left Boston’s Black community alone. Turning our attention from New Negro internationalisms in New York City and toward the eastern seaboard, Shelby’s project asks what made Boston rife for the creation of such important Black feminist texts as the Combahee River Collective’s “A Black Feminist Statement” (1977); for the inaugural National Convention for the Colored Women’s Clubs of America (1895); and for the first public speech delivered by a Black woman (1831). Using the archives of Boston’s YWCA, NACW, and NAACP, Shelby works to craft an intellectual genealogy that takes seriously the ideas and theories that Black women discussed as students of their own social condition. By examining the fraught historiography of sexual violence as a theme in Black internationalist thought, her project attempts to uncover the ways that theory on space, place, citizenship and subjecthood is intimately linked to Black women’s bid for personhood and sexual respectability in the 19th and 20th centuries.