Call for Papers: The Journal of Working-Class Studies Special Issue, December 2017

The Journal of Working-Class Studies Special Issue, December 2017: The Poverty of Academia: Exploring the (Intersectional) Realities of Working Class Academics

Educational attainment is often framed as positive, having the liberatory potential to free the socio-economically marginalized from their constraints. There is little if ever any mention of the unchained slavery of debt and low wages that ties working-class academics to perpetual bondage. Once working class academics become subsumed into the Ivory Tower, assumptions of class privilege are immediately attached to their bodies: they are perceived as solidly middle class. But many individuals within academic settings occupy marginal positions. This marginalization has led to the creative use and understanding of an “outsider within” status.  This special issue attempts to uncover the influences of class status (among other axes of identity) on academics who still occupy this socioeconomically disadvantaged position. Far too often, these stories exist in siloes of private messages, listservs, and Facebook groups. This CFP hopes to move these singular stories of pain and struggle to a forum where the commonalities among these stories as well as the structural influences sustaining these realities can be collectively recognized.

As Deborah Warnock (2016) illustrates, working-class academics describe the precarious nature of their existences inside the tower. In the work she conducted, she identified five key themes that comprise the marginal existence of working-class academics: 1) alienation, 2) lack of cultural capital, 3) encountering stereotypes and microaggressions, 4) experiencing survivor guilt and the impostor syndrome, and 5) struggling to pass in a middle-class culture that values ego and networking. Two additional narratives are also emerging as part of this interlocking web of marginality: student debt and increased exploitation of adjunct labor.

This special issue, continuing along the path charted by Warnock and others, seeks to center these working class scholar narratives. We pay particular attention to the intersecting reality of working class scholars, highlighting the impossible web that many women, LGBT individuals, disabled scholars, people of color, religious minorities, etc. navigate to exist within academia.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Publishing AND perishing
  • Negotiating while Woman
  • Cultural capital
  • Employment and debt​ (including student loan debt)
  • Parenting while poor and professor
  • Navigating immigration
  • Failed academic job search/ faltering academic job market
  • Demands of travel (relocation, conference travel, speaking, etc)
  • Family (broadly defined) (changing relationships, perceptions of family/by family, finances)
  • (Hiding) Class and sexuality
  • Class concerns at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions
  • Negotiating want vs need/ relative poverty
  • Part time/contingent/adjunct faculty income/debt
  • Perceptions of competence (impostor syndrome)
  • Sharing/community building
  • Stigma (covert or overt)
  • “Bad and Boujee”
  • “All poor but the Prez”

We endeavour to publish timely as well as academically rigorous articles, therefore the deadline for submissions is September 1st 2017. Send submissions and inquiries to

WCSA President-Elect’s Book Published

Terry Easton’s new book, Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain: The Imperial Hotel Occupation as Prophetic Politics has been published through Open Door Community Press.

This oral-history based book tells the dramatic story of how, in June 1990, a one-day action to bring attention to rising homelessness and lack of affordable housing in Atlanta transformed into a sixteen-day occupation of the abandoned Imperial Hotel. Over 300 homeless people and their advocates were vital to the action. This book also demonstrates how the occupation spurred affordable housing development in the 1990s and beyond. Rev. Tim McDonald, Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church, says Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain is an “authentic, powerful, moving retelling of an epic time in the history of Atlanta when the issue of homelessness was taken to another level.” Historian Todd Moye writes, “Raising Our Voices, Breaking the Chain is a gem. The story of the Imperial Hotel takeover–told through the voices of the women and men who conceived and executed the takeover themselves, alongside Terry Easton’s insightful analysis–contains countless lessons for anyone who would act to end homelessness and make American cities just a little more democratic.”

Please contact Terry Easton at to request a copy of this book in exchange for a $10 tax-deductable donation to the Open Door Community.

Henkel Presents on Land Grant Universities and Working Class Students

Scott Henkel gave a presentation on May 8th at the University of Wyoming on the theme of “an education good enough for the proudest and open to the poorest.” The presentation is available at this link. Some of the presentation is Wyoming-specific, but much of it is more widely relevant to working class studies, as it tells a part of his working class story, and includes arguments for increasing access and support for working class students.

Updates on Conference Events

The WCSA is hosting a number of events at its upcoming conference in Bloomington:

  • The annual Meet & Greet event will be held Wednesday, May 31 from 5:30- 7 pm at Nick’s English Hut located at 423 E Kirkwood Ave in Bloomington (a short walk from the center of campus). We encourage everyone to stop by and meet new and returning members. Enjoy some appetizers on us!
  • Two “Action Gathering” panel sessions hosted by members of the WCSA Steering Committee will be held on Thursday at 3:30 – 4:45 pm and Friday 1:45 – 3:15 pm. Everyone is encouraged to attend and engage in ongoing conversations about growing the field of working-class studies.
  • A presidential plenary session led by Past-Presidents Tim Strangleman and Christie Launius, President-elect Terry Easton, and current President Michele Fazio to facilitate a discussion on future directions of the WCSA has been scheduled for Thursday from 5:15 – 6:30 pm.
  • Our Membership Meeting is scheduled for Friday at 12:15 pm.  All are welcome to attend to learn more about the WCSA and hear updates from the Steering Committee. Folks are encouraged to bring lunch.

2017 Working Class Studies Association Awards Announced


2017 Working Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2016


Tim Strangleman, immediate-past president and 2016 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 2017 at our conference which will be held this year on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington May 31st-June 3rd, 2017.  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 2016; 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

 Angela Stuesse – Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South

 Judges’ comments:

 “In this timely, beautifully-written, and deeply researched activism-based ethnography about the poultry industry in the American South, Stuesse demonstrates how workers are exploited and divided on the basis of racial and ethnic identities within the context of neoliberal globalization.”

“Angela Stuesse’s SCRATCHING OUT A LIVING is a model of engaged scholarship. Without underestimating the difficulties her research reveals that the basis for inter-racial working class solidarity among African Americans and Latinos in the South does indeed exist in the newest “new” South.”

Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

 David LaBounty and Tim Applegate – Workers Write: Tales From the Construction Site

 Judges’ comments:

 “This collection gets at the very heart of what working class art, working class creative writing, looks like. It comes from varied perspectives, speaks in diverse voices, but both the perspective and the voices have at base an engaging depiction of work and the worker’s life.”

“The short stories and poems in this collection are snapshots of the experience of work and its place in a wider social life. Scenes from everyday life, tangible descriptions of work, tales that blur autobiography and imaginative purpose – each story finds its own character through this theme. The writing is consistently good throughout, across a diverse range of styles, highlighting not just the talent of the authors but of the editor’s eye. It is a book that gives expression to working class creativity: its intrinsic relationship to having to hold down a day job and pay the rent, an expression of labor in writing, and a testament to the labor of writing itself.”

“This collection of workers’ writings gives voice to the working class in a clear, authentic way. These multi-genre selections are grounded in the reality of working-class existence.”

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

Diana Garvin – ‘Singing Truth to Power: Melodic Resistance and Bodily Revolt in Italy’s Rice Fields’, Annali d’italianistica 34 (2016). Speaking Truth to Power from Medieval to Modern Italy

 Judges’ comments:

“An ambitious interdisciplinary and intersectional project that centers the voices of working-class women in Italy during the Fascist period.  ”

“This is a superb article, indeed one of the most compelling that I’ve read for some time. It is beautifully written, theoretically trenchant, and deeply insightful as it re-presents the archive voices of the Mondine women through a careful and compassionate scholarship that itself speaks truth to power through its account of the women’s singing of truth to the power of exploitative practices of productivity and womanhood under Italian Fascism. As such, this article – of all the excellent material submitted – occupies the unique space of working class studies as I see it: that is, it brings deep and humane attention to the material interconnections of gender, class place and history as they impact on lived experience, and it does so with an impeccable balance of creative awareness, persistently probing intelligence, and scrupulous outrage. Wonderful!”

Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

 Gabriel Thompson, Dark Meat

Judges’ comments:

“Dark Meat: informative and engaging narrative, brings home personal side of poultry industry’s gaming of industrial accident rates and its efforts to increase line speeds via Dept. of Agriculture’s regulatory authority.”

“Makes the reader viscerally feel the pain of workplace injuries and overwork. Damning of the poultry and insurance companies and the workers’ comp system and OSHA. It illustrates how employers get away with mistreating workers with government collusion.”

Plus Special Commendation to The Editors of The Grind, for their series ‘The Year of Grueling Work’ of which ‘Dark Meat’ was a part. 

Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

Jackie Gabriel – “Manufacturing Precarity: A Case Study of the Grain Processing Corporation (GPC)/United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 86D Lockout in Muscatine, Iowa”

 Judges’ comments:

“I found this study on precarious jobs and precarious workers to be a fascinating and useful take on how job loss and re-employment works in the Heartland. The meteoric rise of the use of the offensive lockout by employers makes this case study of the longest lockout in US history to be especially appropriate for examination. It is a strong rumination on the relationship between workers, local unions and national headquarters.”

 “Jackie Gabriel’s research of the lockout at the Iowa processing plant “Manufacturing Precarity” was brilliant work.  Among the many things I like about this work is that it addresses the traditional issues of working class identity and work life for blue-collar men. There is plenty of discussion, much of it justified, of the need to move beyond the examination of blue-collar work, especially that of unionized male factory workers.  Gabriel shows that such calls are premature.  The workers, who were skillfully interviewed by Gabriel, were seen as honorable and dignified in their desires to hold onto their working class circumstances.  This is a classic tale of blue-collar workers being dominated by the power of the owning class, but in this case the workers held onto their dignity and, in the long run, their skills and their rewarding productive labor.”

Thanks to all the judges:

 John Beck, Michigan State University

Geoff Bright, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Gary Jones, American International College, Springfield, Massachusetts

Lisa Kirby, The Texas Center for Working-Class Studies, Collin College,

Christie Launius University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

Betsy Leondar-Wright, Class Matters

Sean McPherson, Bridgewater College

Jack Metzgar, Roosevelt University, Chicago

David Nettleingham, University of Kent, UK

Cherie Rankin, Heartland Community College Normal, IL

Jeff Torlina, Utah Valley University

Chris Walley, MIT

Deborah Warnock, Cortland College, SUNY