PRESS RELEASE: 2016 Working Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2015


2016 Working Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2015

CONTACT:  Christie Launius, immediate-past president and 2015 awards organizer


Each year, the Working Class Studies Association (WCSA) issues a number of awards to recognize the best new work in the field of working-class studies.  This year, they will be awarded in June 2016 at the How Class Works conference, hosted by Center for Study of Working Class Life at SUNY Stony Brook.

The review process is organized by the past-president of the WCSA, and submissions are judged by a panel of three readers for each of the categories of awards.

The results are in for the annual WCSA Awards for significant contributions to working-class studies in the year 2015; the winners are listed below, along with judges’ comments.

Together these books and articles demonstrate the scope and vitality of cultural and scholarly production in working-class studies, and serve as an inspiration to future work in the field.

CLR James Award for Published Book for Academic or General Audiences (there are two recipients this year)

White, Ann Folino. Plowed Under: Food Policy Protests and Performance in New Deal America. Indiana University Press, 2015.

Judges’ comments:

“The book has a remarkably inventive and interdisciplinary methodology, and it takes a diverse but coherent look at the multifaceted questions of labor, food production, and the relations of class, race, and gender during the Great Depression, questions that have lasting implications for today’s world.”

“This book is incredibly ambitious in terms of its interdisciplinary vision. Though White grounds her study by examining the effects of a specific piece of “New Deal” legislation—the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act—on the political and cultural landscape of the depression-era U.S., she does this by combining interventions from performance studies, public policy, and labor history, all through a broad analytical lens that allows us to see how differently situated ‘socioeconomic identity groups’ responded to the AAA’s framing of the relationship between the duties of citizenship and the ‘right’ to food.”

Weise, Julie M. Corazón de Dixie: Mexicans in the U.S. South Since 1910. University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Judges’ comments:

“At first glance, a reader might be deceived into thinking that Corazón de Dixie is not necessarily a working-class studies text. It is in fact a deeply intersectional history, concerned with ‘the regional and national politics of race, class, and citizenship’ as related to the Mexican-American immigrant experience; the politics of work, and work’s relationship to how one develops a sense of U.S. belonging on both her own terms and the terms of powerful others, resonates from every page of this book.”

“This is an exceptionally well-researched study of an important and overlooked subject that challenges static perceptions about Mexican immigration and the Southern racial system. Weise’s study is innovative in its conceptual and historical framework, its methodology and its conclusions.”

Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

Yarrow, Mike and Ruth Yarrow.  Photographs by Douglas Yarrow.  Voices from the Appalachian Coalfields.  Bottom Dog Press, 2015.

Judges’ comments:

“I think [this book] could be influence a lot of writers, artists, and scholars in the future in terms of how they approach and respond to working-class culture. I feel like all this work was almost lost, so simply the fact of its publication is important. It captures both regional culture and working-class culture in all its emotional complexity through the competing voices.”

“It is important work here, and well done.  The photographs enhance the book greatly, and great care seems to have been taken with the interviews, documentation, and writing so that the past is preserved intact. “

“These poems, ‘found’ in oral histories of coal mining families, beautifully convey life in the mines and on picket lines, showing the eloquence of the speech of working people.  These pieces present the poetry of everyday life and present all the pain, resilience, bravery, humanity and aspiration of poetry crafted by poets.  This book is a real and lasting contribution to working-class literature.”

John Russo & Sherry Linkon Award for Published Article or Essay for Academic or General Audiences

Bright, Geoff.  “‘The Lady is Not Returning!’: Educational Precarity and a Social Haunting in the UK Coalfields.” Ethnography and Education (2015).

Judges comments’:

“As a large-scale case study [this article] has an historical immediacy that makes for compelling reading, while the concept of ‘social haunting’ adds depth and substance to the overall historical description.  Aligned with the concept of precarity, these issues establish an analytic focus to argue for moments of resistance and reversal in the midst of lingering economic and industrial devastation, specifically those of the UK coalfields shuttered by the Thatcher government.”

“This essay is absolutely fascinating and breaks new paths, I believe, in developing methodologies for working-class studies scholarship and for comprehending the impact of the horrors and suffering caused by class society over generations. . . . .  I am thankful for this essay.  It was a joy to read.  For an academic article, it was a real page-turner.”

Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

Walley, Christine and Chris Boebel.  Exit Zero.  

Judges’ comments:

“Walley and Boebel’s Exit Zero begins with what seems like it will be a familiar story: the tragic decline of the steel industry in Southeast Chicago in the 1980s. But prepare yourself for a complex, gripping, and surprising story that makes it clear that de-industrialization, in the forms that it took, and in the ways in which workers were treated, was not inevitable.”

“I was very moved by this remarkable combination of family story and its strenuous relationship to deindustrialization. Steel made this family but also tried to destroy it in the end. Nuanced and balanced portrait of family’s history, [it] avoids sentimentalizing  a working class family and community.”

Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

Rosenthal, Gregory.  “Hawaiians Who Left Hawaii: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876.”

Judges’ comments:

“Without ever using the word “intersectionality,” this dissertation deftly shows how class, gender, race, ethnicity, and basic power relations were intimately fused yet distinct amidst the economic forces of the 19th century Pacific World.  Wonderfully written with sensitive and nuanced understandings of both the natural and human worlds, Hawaiians Who Left Hawaii . . . will undoubtedly be published pretty much as it is and will likely become a key text in the flourishing field of the History of Capitalism.”

“[W]hat I found exciting about this project is the way Rosenthal frames his study of an overlooked piece of working-class culture and history so clearly through an analysis of how class, race, and gender shape and are shaped by work, capitalism, and global interactions.  I appreciate, too, Rosenthal’s attention to the classed, raced, and gendered bodies of workers and to representations.”

Thanks to all the judges:

Sara Appel, University of Pittsburgh

Jim Catano, Louisiana State University

Renny Christopher, Washington State University Vancouver

Jim Daniels, Carnegie Mellon University

Michele Fazio, University of North Carolina Pembroke

Sandee Gertz

Scott Henkel, University of Wyoming

Tim Libretti, Northeastern Illinois University

Sherry Linkon, Georgetown University

Jack Metzgar, Roosevelt University

Kathy Newman, Carnegie Mellon University

Andy Perchard, Coventry University

Jeffrey Pickron, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Jane Van Galen, University of Washington Bothell

Tom Zaniello, Northern Kentucky University


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