2017-2018 Season

September 13th, 2017

Responsible Nationalism?  Why Economists Are Rethinking the Merits of Free Trade

Erin Bronchetti, Associate Professor, Economics, Swarthmore College

The bipartisan trade agreements of the past three administrations now face bipartisan skepticism.  A leading economist has called for “responsible nationalism”.  Are economists pulling an about-face on the merits of free trade?  Professor Bronchetti will cover the basic view of international trade that almost all economists accept, describe key trade agreements, and discuss gains and losses from trade.  What policies might ensure that domestic benefits are spread widely and costs are shared fairly, as “responsible nationalism” requires?

Bronchetti’s research spans public policy, public finance and labor and health economics.

October 18th, 2017

What Makes Democracy Work?

Ben Berger, Associate Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility

Idealistic theories of democracy call for informed, attentive citizens.  What if most citizens don’t fit that model?  Worse, what if even informed, attentive citizens fit the facts to match their preexisting loyalties and social identities?  Political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels pose worrisome answers.  This talk will examine the debates, evidence, and arguments surrounding their groundbreaking book, Democracy for Realists:  Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, and will explore the implications for democracy.

Berger’s book, Attention Deficit Democracy: The Paradox of Civic Engagement, won the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award in 2011.

November 15, 2017

Walls or Bridges? The American Immigration System at a Crossroads •

Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff, Director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility

On what terms will the U.S. immigration system be constructed over the next 20 years? Does an ideology of “America First” presage an era of reductions in legal immigration, a less generous policy on refugees, and tougher border enforcement? Or will the spirit of the Statue of Liberty maintain a central role in the American imagination, supporting high levels of immigration, continued demographic change, and legalization programs for undocumented migrants? We will examine these questions from a variety of perspectives—economic, cultural and global—and ask how a discussion of values might help shape the debate. Aleinikoff, Swarthmore class of 1974, served from 2010 to 2015 as the Deputy High Commissioner in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

December 6, 2017

Zombies in the Language of American Dystopia

Jamie Thomas, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Swarthmore College

The word ‘apocalypse’ is being used now more than ever. How does our trending fascination with the zombie connect to our anxieties over difference and our uncertainty about our political and collective future? What clues does language provide? Thomas is an educator and sociocultural linguist focused on human interaction, learning, and communication. As a digital media producer, her interests span popular culture, technology, science fiction, visual arts, language, and education policy. Her current book is Zombies Speak Swahili.

January 17, 2018

Designing for Social Justice

Jules Dingle AIA, Principal at Philadelphia architecture firm DIGSAU • Bon Ku MD, MPP, Assistant Dean for Health and Design at Thomas Jefferson University and Emergency Medicine physician

Tackling the complex challenges of inequity in modern cities through the design of the built environment is increasingly a cross-disciplinary endeavor. Our two speakers, who come from widely differing professions, will talk about human-centered design as a form of social justice and how this approach is producing healthier and more equitable urban communities. Dingle and Ku have each admired the other’s work from afar and are collaborating for the first time on this talk. DIGSAU is the architect for the Matchbox and the new residence hall on the Swarthmore College campus.

February 21, 2018

Whose Democracy? Inequalities in Political Participation

Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Swarthmore College

Who does and who does not vote (or otherwise participate) in American politics? Laurison will describe the Pennsylvania Non-Voter Project, a collaborative effort to understand political non-participation, especially among poor and working-class people, and to increase political engagement in communities around the state where participation is usually low. Laurison’s research encompasses political participation and engagement, social class and inequality, and the role of campaign officials and political consultants in shaping American politics.

March 21, 2018

Communicating Science to the Public

Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Dr. Offit, well-known for his advocacy for childhood immunizations, will discuss the challenges to communicating science to the public and the media. In his book, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, he takes on present-day claims for alternative medicines and therapies. Offit is also the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Award-winning author of numerous books, his newest is Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong.

April 18, 2018

Why Fighting Online Abuse Is Good for Free Speech

Danielle Citron, Morton & Sophia Macht Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law

Not long ago, cyber harassment was viewed as part of the bargain of online life. Victims were told that they had a choice: they could either ignore the threats, defamation, and privacy invasions or go offline. Much has changed in the intervening years. Now, legislators, law enforcers, companies, and civil liberties groups recognize online abuse’s impairment of victims’ careers, physical safety, emotional health, and self-expression. What can and should law do to combat cyber stalking? Can we reconcile legal developments with First Amendment doctrine and free speech values? Citron’s work focuses on information privacy law, cyber law and civil rights.  She is the author of Hate Crimes in Cyperspace (2014).