Newbrook Labor College — Register Today for Spring 2021!

The Newbrook Labor College, a labor education organization dedicated to creating an inclusive labor movement and moving workers to action, seeks applications for its Spring 2021 semester. This semester, all courses will be held online and cover a range topics of interest to working-class activists, artists, and scholars.

Learn more about how to apply and what to expect at their website.

Call For Papers: The Idea of the Lumpenproletariat

Ben Clarke (UNC Greensboro) and Michael Bailey (University of Essex) invite submissions for a collection of essays from scholars across a range of disciplines. See the full call for papers below!

The Idea of the Lumpenproletariat

Marx and Engels famously use the term lumpenproletariat to describe “that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society.” The concept suggests that the most marginal are not part of the revolutionary class but are in fact more likely to function as a “bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.” As Raphael Samuel noted, the word came to function as an “unproblematic term of abuse” in early twentieth-century Communist discourse, suggesting a relation between political unreliability and moral failings. The precarious were not merely represented as a threat to radical movements but as personally contemptible in ways that drew on conservative ideas of the undeserving poor. One result of this was to reinforce the focus of Marxist theory and practice on a relatively narrowly defined urban, educated, organized industrial working-class.

            The argument that the industrial proletariat is the necessary agent of revolutionary change responds to a particular region and period, to the experience of the Global North in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. These models are less able to accommodate the experience of the Global South or to address what Komlosy calls the current “flexibilization and informalization” of employment. Contemporary theory and practice require concepts able to analyze a variety of histories and respond to new forms of precarity. The Idea of the Lumpenproletariat examines the ways in which literary and cultural analysis contribute to the understanding of the distinct populations produced by neoliberal global capitalism. It analyses the problems the concept of the lumpenproletariat addresses and the ways in which it might be adapted, extended, or replaced. This involves considering whether it provides theoretical insights not available from terms such as “underclass” or “precariat,” and the functions it might serve in both contemporary cultural analysis and political practice.

            The Idea of the Lumpenproletariat will be divided into two sections, one focusing on theoretical questions and the other on specific literary and cultural readings. Possible topics including, but not limited to:

  • The history, theory, and use of the concept of the lumpenproletariat
  • Marxist theories and representations of the itinerant, precarious, and criminal
  • Theories and representations of economic change and social exclusion
  • The lumpenproletariat and the Global South
  • The lumpenproletariat and globalization
  • The lumpenproletariat and ethnicity
  • The lumpenproletariat and gender
  • The lumpenproletariat and sexuality
  • The lumpenproletariat and disability
  • Literary representations of the lumpenproletariat
  • The lumpenproletariat in popular culture
  • The lumpenproletariat and contemporary political practice

Please submit a 500 word abstract to Ben Clarke at b_clarke@uncg.edu by March 1, 2021. Completed chapters should be no more than 7500 words and will be due by September 30, 2021.

Published in 2021: Marc Dipaolo’s autobiographical novel

Southwestern Oklahoma State University Associate Professor Dr. Marc DiPaolo of Weatherford has an autobiographical novel— Fake Italian: An 83% True Autobiography with Pseudonyms and Some Tall Tales—that will soon be released online and later in print.

The book takes place in New York, 1987. In a city torn apart by racial tension, Damien Cavalieri is an adolescent without a tribe. His mother — who pines for the 1950s Brooklyn Italian community she grew up in — fears he lacks commitment to his heritage. Cavalieri’s fellow Staten Islanders agree, dubbing him a “fake Italian” and bullying him for being artistic.

Complicating matters, his efforts to make friends and date girls outside of the Italian community are thwarted time and again by circumstances beyond his control. When a tragic accident shakes Cavalieri to his core, he begins a journey of self-discovery that will lead him to Italy, where he will learn, once and for all, his true identity.

DiPaolo has written three nonfiction books: Fire and Snow: Climate
Fiction from the Inklings to 
Game of Thrones (2018); War, Politics and Superheroes (2011); and Emma Adapted: Jane Austen’s Heroine from Book to Film (2007). He has appeared in the documentary Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics (2017),and is associate professor of English at SWOSU.

The book will be published by Bordighera Press on May 11, but the book will be available for purchase online in early February, when the first print run is expected.

Announcing the 2021 wcsa conference

We are excited to announce that we have officially rescheduled the annual Working-Class Studies Association conference following last year’s cancelation!

Re-Placing Class: Community, Politics, Work, and Labor in a Changing World

The 2020 conference has been rescheduled for June 7-9, 2021. It will be hosted at Youngstown University,  but will mostly be virtual. We seek additional proposals for our on-line conference with a submission date of March 15, 2021. Check out our revised Call for Papers!

Note: If your submission for 2020 was accepted, you do NOT need to re-submit your proposal. You will receive confirmation of your acceptance by March 1st. If you would like to substantially revise your submission, please follow the above guidelines. You can note in your submission that this is a revision.

Download the 2021 Call for Papers here.

Published in 2021: The Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies

Co-editors: Michele Fazio (UNC Pembroke), Christie Launius  (Kansas State University), Tim Strangleman (University of Kent) have published The Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies.

Divided into six sections, the handbook consists of 35 essays by leading scholars and educators in our field that cover: Methods and Principles of Research in Working-Class Studies, Class and Education, Work and Community, Working-Class Cultures, Representations, and Activism and Collective Action. Editorial and supplemental materials offer a history of working-class studies, as well as an incisive assessment of the current state of the field.

Congratulations to our editors and all of our contributors!