5 to 6:30pm
Towner Fellows Lounge
“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.
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