Matti Ron Wins the Literary London Society Prize for Best Paper Presented by a Postgraduate Researcher at Their 2019 Conference

WCSA member and current Elections Chair Matti Ron has won the Literary London Society prize for best paper presented by a postgraduate researcher at their 2019 conference.

Ron’s paper ‘Zadie Smith’s and James Kelman’s counter-narratives of working-class (de)composition in post-industrial London’ stood out to judges, and received the following feedback:

A lively and sharp-sighted account which developed an innovative approach to Smith and Kelman’s sounding out of the death of the working-class political subject. This evaluative enquiry is additionally prescient during times ‘after Brexit’ when questions of race, ethnonationalism, and the ‘nativist instrumentalisation’ of class are uppermost in public and political discourse.

The focus on ‘lost radicalism’ is a fascinating topic – one that is intently cross-disciplinary in its attention to tracing ‘existential angst’, detachment and destitution within British society. There is a value in this work and the way it traces the attempt to build counter-narrative to ‘nativist notions of class’ in post-crisis times (now post- post- crisis!). I was convinced by the argument that such a process of ‘constructive deconstruction’ also has a role in identifying new forms of class solidarity, affiliation and self-definition.

Congrats to Matti!

2020 Working-Class Studies Association Lifetime Achievement Award ~ Janet Zandy

PRESS RELEASE

July 21, 2020

CONTACT:

Terry Easton, past WCSA president

The WCSA, an international network of scholars, activists, and artists interested in working-class issues, offers lifetime achievement awards to those who have made significant, long-running contributions to the field of Working-Class Studies.

Janet Zandy’s body of work fuses the lived experience of working-class people with theoretical sophistication and commitment to democratic ideals. For over thirty years, her scholarship has provided foundational ideas and texts for the emergence of working-class studies as a field. In Calling Home: Working-Class Women’s Writing (1990), Zandy challenges canonical notions of literary value when introducing readers to the lived and imagined experiences of working-class and poor women writers. In Liberating Memory: Our Work and Our Working-Class Consciousness (1994), Zandy reveals the power of memory and identity as a usable past through voices of academic and cultural workers from working-class origins who had migrated to middle-class institutions or settings. Emerging from an expanded version of the 1995 special issue of Women’s Studies Quarterly on class, What We Hold in Common: An Introduction to Working-Class Studies (2001) connects the visionary with the possible through scholarship, creative writing, educational initiatives, syllabi, and bibliographies from new and established writers and workers. In Hands: Physical Labor, Class, and Cultural Work (2004, Honorable Mention, John Hope Franklin Prize in American Studies), Zandy creates a juncture where seemingly disparate voices and events coalesce to enable meditation on the architectonics of human bodies, particularly workers’ hands, the body part that provides “lucid maps to the geography of human complexity” (1). Zandy’s collaboration with Nicholas Coles, American Working-Class Literature: An Anthology (2007), offers an astounding collection of 150 non-canonical and canonical writers of varied races, ethnicities, genders, geographies, and religious backgrounds across 400 years of cultural expression, and has become an essential sourcebook for working-class studies pedagogy and historical reclamation.

After developing a course in photography and writing in 2005, Zandy turned her scholarship toward photography, probing how class shapes the history of photography. She published two articles in exposure, “Photography and Writing: A Pedagogy of Seeing,” and “Seeing Beyond Dirt: The Language of Working-Class Photography,” a study of photography by and about workers that received the Society for Photographic Education award for outstanding historical and cultural writing on photography in 2010.  Zandy received an Ansel Adams Research Fellowship and Peter E. Palmquist award for research on women photographers Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. Her book on Mieth and Palfi, Unfinished Stories: The Narrative Photography of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi, was published in 2013. Zandy also published on photographer Milton Rogovin in New Labor Forum and Transformations. Forthcoming in the Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies is “Mapping Working-Class Art,” a chapter that led to her current project, Common Art/Common-ing Art, a book on class, art, and workers that identifies power relationships and constitutive elements of working-class art expressed in presentations of laborers, slaves, peasants, servants, sowers, planters, and reapers in printmaking, painting, photography, and sculpture.

Pedagogy is another component of Zandy’s contribution to the field of working-class studies. As a professor in the English Department at Rochester Institute of Technology (now Professor Emerita), where for many years she taught up to nine courses a year, Zandy guided several generations of undergraduate students through analysis of the intersections of class, gender, race, sexuality, and environmental justice. With a devotion to teaching as energetic as her attention to writing, Zandy’s students learned how to see themselves as part of something larger. In an end-of-the-semester reflection in her New American Literature course, a student responded to Zandy’s prompt drawn from Antonio Gramsci’s  ideas about the purpose of education (“to know oneself better through others and to know others better through oneself”): “We rarely are pressed to look at the world through other people’s eyes. We are allowed to sit in our quiet comfort zones and dwell on our own lives. Therefore, when given a book where the characters’ lives are so dramatic and filled with emotion the only way to give justice to the work is to leave our comfort zones and become a part of the text ourselves.” Akin to Lewis Hine’s work with a camera, so too did Zandy’s classroom labor enable students to cultivate a new way of seeing, a class-consciousness, and a sense agency.

In 2020, as we create a world – a text – where empathy bends the moral arc toward justice, Zandy’s scholarship, historical reclamation, and pedagogical legacy are central to a field that demands answerability through dialogic approaches to texts, art, and political terrain, widely defined. Read one of her books, talk to her at one of our conferences, or join her in Rochester, New York, for Workers Memorial Day, an annual public gathering that commemorates the thousands of workers whose deaths, injuries, and occupational illnesses result from their jobs; in this heteroglossic space where workers names are read aloud, testimony unites the living and the dead where the past is remembered, current struggles are acknowledged, and worker safety is demanded.

In 1995, at the Working-Class Lives/Working-Class Studies Conference in Youngstown, Ohio, Zandy presented on “traveling working class.” She describes the conference as a “jubilant occasion” where she and others felt a “new trajectory” that “validated the importance of carrying the best of working-class values, ethos, and knowledge into the academy, and of using that rich, complex, even discordant heritage to expand what constitutes knowledge.” To her delight she realized that people no longer had to work in isolation, but instead had allies, “builders from inside and outside working-class lived experience” (What We Hold in Common ix). Since that touchstone 1995 conference, Zandy’s light continues to shine through generations of scholars she has mentored. In her oeuvre, Zandy illustrates that working-class voices are tools of resistance to class domination and cultural elision. Let’s cinch up our shoes and keep traveling working class as we honor Janet Zandy for her work in forging a multi-voiced, mellifluent, and discordant collective designed by, for, and in the interests of working-class people.

~Terry Easton

Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies Now Available for Pre-Order

The Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies is now available for pre-order from the publisher’s website here.

The book is edited by three former Working-Class Studies Association Presidents, Michele Fazio, Christie Launius, and Tim Strangleman. From the publisher’s website, the book:

is a timely volume that provides an overview of this interdisciplinary field that emerged in the 1990s in the context of deindustrialization, the rise of the service economy, and economic and cultural globalization. The Handbook brings together scholars, teachers, activists, and organizers from across three continents to focus on the study of working-class peoples, cultures, and politics in all their complexity and diversity. The Handbook maps the current state of the field and presents a visionary agenda for future research by mingling the voices and perspectives of founding and emerging scholars.

The Handbook features contributions from dozens of WCSA members! You can see the Table of Contents here.

2020 Working-Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2019

2020 Working-Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2019

July 5, 2020 (Download the press release here).

CONTACT: Cherie Rankin, immediate-past president and 2019 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. The review process of submitted work 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.

Awards are normally awarded at the annual WCSA conference; due to the COVID-19 crisis and the postponement of the conference, awards have been announced privately to the winners and are being made public here.

This year’s winners and judges’ comments are listed below. Together these works demonstrate the scope and vitality of cultural and scholarly production in working-class studies, and they serve as an inspiration to future work in the field. With this year’s annual conference postponed, we are sharing the slide show of award recipients that would have been presented at the conference below:

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2020 Awards Slides

 

C.L.R. James Award for Published Book for Academic or General Audiences 

Christopher R. Martin, No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class

Judges’ comments:

Martin “examines the shifts in journalistic trends that parallel both deindustrialization  and the conservative political turn from the late 1960s onward, paying particularly attention, for instance, to the increasing preference for upscale (middle- and upper-class) readers at the expense of labor reporting and stories by and about working people. He does a masterful job exploring how the term ‘job killer’ was adopted and deployed by conservative politicians and business elites as a way to undermine work meant to protect the social safety net, union efforts, environmental protections, and the like from Reagan until the present moment, and demonstrates that it is precisely those CEOs lauded in mass media as ‘job makers’ who are the real job killers.”

“Author Christopher Martin identifies reforms that promise to restore the visibility and voice of the working class, to the benefit of the media, the working-class majority, and indeed, the country as a whole. This book deserves the widest possible audience!”

 

Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

Jodie Adams Kirshner, Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

Judges’ Comments:

“Kirshner is a self-appointed defense attorney for Detroit’s leftovers. Her knowledge has depth and heart.”

“Excellent nonfiction work on the undoing of Detroit; love the way the author follows key players through the story with insider knowledge of the world she depicts. Rigorously researched. Important work. Exemplar we could turn to in envisioning other working-class stories of place.”

“Without succumbing to a single point of view, Jodie Adams Kirshner brings together a wide cast of those most affected and thereby opens the case of and for Detroit and our other large cities suffering financial strain. This is a book is worth reading for its essential story as well as its eloquence of style.”

 

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

Pamela Fox, “Born to Run and Reckless: My Life as a Pretender.” From Popular Music and the Politics of Hope: Queer and Feminist Interventions.

Judges’ comments:

“Rich analysis and very useful movement between the musician autobiographies, theories of autobiography, and how the latter have to be complicated by a class analysis. Popular music narratives and experiences form a counter narrative to power, a ‘politics of hope’ in contrast to dominant narratives of class and disability, class as disability. Her suggestion of ‘reparative practices’ should be taken up in working-class studies and fleshed out.”

 

Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

Alison Stine, “Last Days of the Appalachian Poverty Tour.”

Judges’ comments:

“The article is both reflective and hard-hitting with its push to illustrate for readers some of the main characteristics of impoverished communities, without over generalizing or stereotyping.”

“Provides a complex analysis that includes both the oppression and pain but also the resilience and community of working/poverty-class life.”

“As insightful as it was beautiful— poetic prose.”

 

Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

Melissa Meade, In the Shadow of ‘King Coal’: Memory, Media, Identity, and Culture in the Post-Industrial Pennsylvania Anthracite Region

Judges’ comments:

“It is an affirmation of the importance of working-class stories and provides the working-class subjects with agency. The work also considers the intersections of race/ethnicity and gender in its examination of identity formation and also considers the ‘environmental classism’ which is a result of polluted and poisoned landscapes.”

“This is an excellent dissertation, and a valuable advancement of our knowledge regarding working class identity and media.”

“Soundly theorized, yet poignantly human and personal.  A new vantage point on an oft-studied region. The trope of the decades-long fire smoldering under this region of the country resonates powerfully in our current political environment.”

 

Jake Ryan and Charles Sackrey Award for a Book about the Working-Class Academic Experience (two awards)

Editor Jackie Goode, Clever Girls: Autoethnographies of Class, Gender and Ethnicity.

Judges’ comments:

“I really liked the timeliness of this book and the way the contributors dealt with the intersections of class, ethnicity, and gender. I also liked how the contributors dealt with both the public and the private spheres. Really interesting chapters and a very powerful conclusion.”

“This is an edited collection of autoethnographic essays on upward mobility through higher education for ‘clever girls’ mostly, but not entirely, from the British working class. It is a wonderfully evocative collection that really opens up the experience of class transition to the reader, positively inviting the reader to tell their own story – a wonderful use of autoethnography, and a great book for working class students and faculty alike, as well as having some appeal to a general public.”

Allison Hurst, Amplified Advantage: Going to a ‘Good College’ in an Era of Inequality

Judges’ comments:

“This is a hugely important book. By looking at different types of students in the American liberal arts college tradition, it demonstrates clearly and vividly that the situation for working class students in higher education is not simply one of equal opportunities or even equal access.”

“I think this book is particularly timely in terms of the recent admissions scandals, and I appreciated the personal perspective.”

“This is an excellent look in the sub-field of the sociology of higher education.”

 

Special thanks to those who served as judges:

Sarah Attfield

Jeanne Bryner

Luka Cheung

Jamie Daniel

Jessica Femiani

Nathan Heggins Bryant

Scott Henkel

Barb Jensen

Gary Jones

Lisa Kirby

Christie Launius

Jessica Pauszek

Cherie Rankin

Larry Smith

Jen Vernon

James Vanderputten

Joe Varga

Valerie Walkerdyne

 

Volume 5, Issue 1 of the The Journal of Working-Class Studies is out now!

Volume 5, Issue 1 of the The Journal of Working-Class Studies is out now at the journal’s website: https://workingclassstudiesjournal.com/

This issue includes a series of reviewed articles, a review essay, a student essay pod, and book reviews. Each can be accessed separately as a PDF file or the full issue can be downloaded here

Soliciting Nominations for the 2020-2021 WCSA Election of Officers and Committees

The WCSA Elections Committee is now accepting nominations for the following positions:

  • President – (three years; president-elect/president/past-president)

  • At-Large Steering Committee Members (two years; two vacancies)

  • Chair of the Elections Committee (three years; chair elect/chair/past chair)

  • Chair of the Working-Class Academics Section (three years; chair-elect/chair/past elect)

Nominations will remain open through July 23, 2020. Please submit your nominations, including self-nominations, as soon as possible. If you are nominating someone other than yourself, please make sure that the person nominated is willing to serve before submitting a nomination. When submitting a nomination please include the candidate’s name, the position for which they are being nominated, academic/professional status, contact email and a short biography.

Please email your nomination to the Chair of the WCSA Elections Committee Matti Ron at m.ron@uea.ac.uk

Please note that ballots will only be sent to current WCSA members. You can check your membership status and renew at this link.

Solidarity,

The WCSA Elections Committee