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Richards Center Affiliated Faculty Featured in Documentary on Democracy

Richards Center Affiliated Faculty Featured in Documentary on Democracy

Richards Center Director Dr. Rachel Shelden

In September, WPSU-TV aired the documentary, Who Counts: The Complexities of Democracy in America. Matthew Jordan, associate professor of media studies, produced the documentary for HumIn Focus, an initiative of Penn State's Humanities Institute. HumIn Focus is an educational web series where Penn State scholars discuss pressing social issues in ways that expand and enrich questions of current concern. Through the series, the Humanities Institute aims "to both broaden and deepen conversations about those questions in ways that emphasize how what we do in the Humanities matters crucially for all of us."

Richards Center-affiliated faculty were well represented in the documentary. Rachel Shelden, center director, Lori Ginzberg, professor of history and women's studies, and Cathleen Cahill, associate professor of history, joined other Penn State faculty to discuss the history of, and contemporary issues affecting, American democracy. They explained the long history of efforts to expand democracy, in the face of great resistance. From the antislavery and women's suffrage movements of the nineteenth century to the Civil Rights movement and contemporary efforts to combat state violence against African Americans and fight voter suppression, the scholars noted that democracy is an ongoing struggle to determine who counts and who participates. 

Dr. Shelden also joined Clarence Lang, Susan Welch Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and John Gastil, professor of communications arts and sciences and political science, in a panel discussion about contemporary challenges to American democracy. Among a broad range of issues, the panel discussed the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the challenges of maintaining informed citizenship in the era of social media, the state of contemporary partisanship, and challenges to voter suppression in various states.

You can watch Who Counts: The Complexities of Democracy in America here. To watch the panel discussion of Who Counts, click here.