Oct. 7, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 2

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    Center for Gender Studies to examine justice for minorities

    By William Harms
    News Office

    Scholars from around the world will come to campus Thursday, Oct. 14, through Sunday, Oct. 17, to discuss the effectiveness of modern democracies in achieving justice for women, sexual minorities and racial minorities.

    The conference, Politics, Rights and Representation: Achieving Equality Across the Lines of Gender, Race and Sexuality in the United States, France and South Africa, is being organized by the Center for Gender Studies and will be held in the Judd Hall auditorium.

    The conference will examine the contradictions that can exist between the goals of democracy and the reality of its practice, said Leora Auslander, Associate Professor in History and an organizer of the event. “Democratic nation-states in the late 20th century all claim to offer equal access to political representation to all citizens, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, class or religion,” Auslander said. “All adults can vote and all adults can run for elective office. Empirical investigation reveals, however, that despite the principle of equal political opportunity, certain groups are radically underrepresented in legislative bodies.”

    Women, gay men and lesbians, and racial minorities are among the groups that typically do not achieve full access to the political system. The conference organizers intend to do a comparative examination of the United States, France and South Africa, which have differing concepts about the relationships between the individual and the state and different histories of dealing with the issues of equality, Auslander said.

    Scheduled to kick off the conference’s opening session are two speakers with international reputations––Thenjiwe Mtistso, deputy secretary general of the African National Conference, and Jane Mansbridge, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

    The conference will be organized around six panels: “Assessing the Categories: Should Political Representation Be Organized by Race, Gender or Sexuality,” Thursday, Oct. 14; “Categorizing the Nation: Between Individual and Collective ‘Identities,’” Friday, Oct. 15; “Achieving Equality in Political Representation: Gender, Sexuality and Race,” Friday, Oct. 15; “Do Identities Matter: Would it Matter if All Voters and Politicians Were All White, Male and Straight?” Saturday, Oct. 16; “NGOs/Activism: Local, National and International Organizations,” Saturday, Oct. 16; and “How Do Things Really Change? Legislatures, Courts, Activism, NGOs and Coalitions,” Sunday, Oct. 17.

    Specific information is available at http://humanities.uchicago.edu/cgs/politics1.html, (773) 702-9936 or by sending e-mail to org-cgs@uchicago.edu.