Dr. Yvonne Pitts, Purdue University | Newberry

Dr. Yvonne Pitts, Purdue University

Thursday, September 10, 2015

5 to 6:30pm

Towner Fellows Lounge

Dr. Yvonne Pitts, Purdue University
Center for American History and Culture Programs
American Political Thought Seminar

“The Capacity to Be Citizens: Civic Participation and the Meaning of Fitness”

This work-in-progress explores how the language of “capacity” provided a conceptual map delineating the boundaries of citizenship throughout the nineteenth century. Capacity and citizenship, separate yet often overlapping concepts, were often used implicitly as metonyms for full civic participation. Drawing on case law, medical and scientific writings, political texts, and cultural ephemera this project examines how the language of capacity and its deficit, labeled as incapacity, unfitness, or insanity, sustained deeply entrenched inequalities. While the language of civic rights appealed to seemingly timeless principles of justice and morality, capacity was a flexible concept that was adaptable to changing epistemological frameworks across the nineteenth century.

Cost and Registration Information 

Scholl Center Seminars papers are pre-circulated electronically. For a copy of the paper, email the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.