Book Notes, Summer 2022

Check out new work by and of interest to members of the Working-Class Studies Association in this summer issue of Book Notes. Enjoy!

A People’s Guide to New York City (U. of California Press), Carolina Bank Munoz, Penny Lewis, Emily Tumpson

The latest in the University of California Press’ people’s guides, this new volume on New York City explores more than 150 sites, mostly in the outer boroughs, where immigrants, people of color, and working classes of all shades have made history and shaped landscapes, some of which are left today and others merely noted with plaques or simple monuments.  According to the publisher, “Delving into the histories of New York’s five boroughs, you will encounter enslaved Africans in revolt, women marching for equality, workers on strike, musicians and performers claiming streets for their art, and neighbors organizing against landfills and industrial toxins and in support of affordable housing and public schools. The streetscapes that emerge from these groups’ struggles bear the traces, and this book shows you where to look to find them.”  This volume, like others in the series, uses the tourist guidebook form to aid both tourists and locals to find significant parts of the people’s city.

A People’s Guide to Orange County (U. of California Press), Elaine Lewinnek, Gustavo Arellano, Thuy Vo Dang

Another new entry in the California Press’ series teases out the huge Orange County part of the Greater Los Angeles area.  The site of Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, the county attracts more than 40 million tourists a year and includes some of the richest oceanfront property on the planet.  But inland, Orange County is an agricultural and industrial landscape of current and historical significance, as are the neighborhoods peopled by workers in the tourist service economy, many of them immigrants.  The guidebook “documents sites of oppression, resistance, struggle, and transformation.”  Previous people’s guides California Press has produced are still available, exploring the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Boston, and Los Angeles.

Hard Rain: Bob Dylan, Oral Cultures, and the Meaning of History (Columbia U. Press), Alessandro Portelli

The doyen of oral history in Italy and the US, Allessandro Portelli uses this slim volume to reflect on his lifetime of work with oral history, originally inspired by the folk music revival in the 1950s when Portelli was in high school.  Tracing the roots of Bob Dylan’s classic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” back not only to the traditional English ballad “Lord Randall,” but to an Italian version that translates as “The poisoned man’s testament,” Portelli talks with others in the US, UK, India, and Italy who were influenced by the bracing lyrics and “awful voice” of Minnesota’s Robert Zimmerman.  Portelli presents the book as “a multidisciplinary investigation on history and memory through the prism of the primary orality of folklore, the secondary orality of mass media, and the conversation between them.”  A multinational tribute to Dylan, Hard Rain presents folk music and oral history “as ways in which the popular classes give voice to their relationship to and presence in history.”

The Lockdown Diaries of the Working Class by The Working Class Collective. (Available in Kindle Edition through Amazon.)

The first project of The Working Class Collective is made up of lockdown diaries submitted by working-class people across the UK, gathered by Lisa McKenzie. The entries are supplemented by the work of six style-diverse working-class illustrators. Graham Scrambler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University College London, writes: “What the Diaries did for me was transport me momentarily into the lives and circumstances of a variety of people who lacked the protection of so many, even all, of Bourdieu’s types of capital. In a way, the fact that the Diaries contained snippets of lives added force. Sometimes an intimate glimpse into a life, allowing the imagination a freer reign, carries more punch than the putative academic summary of a life course. Lisa McKenzie’s linking pieces are exquisitely judged.”

Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the Contingent Faculty Movement in Higher Education (Pluto Press), Joe Berry and Helena Worthen

Most of this book is a detailed analysis of how contingent faculty in the California State University (CSU) system organized across the system and won what the authors think is the best contingent faculty union contract in the country.  In that process, Joe Berry and Helena Worthen manage to develop an historical analysis of higher education in the US and a vision for the future while at the same time systematically exploring the various options CSU faculty organizers faced at different junctures and how and why they chose the options they did.  The result is a guidebook for contingent faculty organizing embedded in a series of narratives with dramatic decision points.  Berry has been a faculty organizer for decades and a leader of the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL) since its founding.  Worthen is a novelist and long-time labor educator.

Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Friends, and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veteran Affairs (Duke U. Press), Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early, Jasper Craven

The American military, especially now as an all-volunteer force, is a working-class institution in the same way as any private firm or government agency.  Though even more hierarchical than other workplaces, its on-the-ground ethos is created by the workers who do the job of preparing for and fighting wars.  This new book by a trio of experienced scholars and journalists explores military workers both in service and, especially, after when they are entitled to a series of benefits as veterans.  The authors frame their comprehensive study within a long political tradition that uniformly praises and honors veterans, but then cheats on the benefits they have been promised.  Even “self-styled helpers of veterans have at times actually jeopardized their access to better healthcare, a decent education via the GI Bill, and later employment with good working conditions and opportunities for advancement.” They propose a new agenda for veterans that is more firmly anchored in broader social programs benefitting all Americans, while providing for veterans’ specific needs.

Young Mungo (Grove Press), Douglas Stuart

Stuart’s first novel won the Booker Prize. Young Mungo, his second, is based in Glasgow and tells the tale of James, a Protestant, and Mungo, a Catholic, as they grow up together and eventually fall in love in a world where potential brutality and violence loom large. Mungo’s older brother is the leader of a vicious local gang. The book explores themes of masculinity, queerness, and religion, and how all intersect with working-class life. Library Journal writes: “After the splendid Shuggie Bain, Stuart continues his examination of 1980s Glaswegian working-class life and a son’s attachment to an alcohol-ravaged mother, with results as good yet distinctly different . . . In language crisper and more direct than Shuggie Bain’s, Stuart heightens his exploration of the sibling bond and the inexplicable hatred between Glasgow’s Protestants and Catholics, while contrasting Mungo’s tenderly conveyed queer awakening with the awful counterpart of sexual violence.”

After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back (U. of California Press), Juliet Schor

This latest effort from sociological economist Juliet Schor first traces how the initial promise of the gig economy – flexibility, autonomy, and decent incomes for workers, for example – has degenerated into “exploited Uber drivers, neighborhoods ruined by Airbnb, racial discrimination, and rising carbon emissions.”  But then she attempts to show how the basic model of “a peer-to-peer structure augmented by digital tech” still has the potential to fulfill its early promise.  To that end she puts forward a series of regulatory reforms to foster cooperative platforms owned and controlled by users that would lead to “an equitable and truly shared economy.”  One reviewer explains: “Schor’s case studies skillfully represent the full spectrum of optimism and disenchantment—those previously bullish on being their own boss, who have since been dragged to despair . . . .  The takeaway from this book is that a complete reimagining of city governance is required if the sharing economy is ever going to work for the people.”

Class Struggle Unionism (Haymarket Books), Joe Burns

In this historically informed manual for labor organizing in the 21st century, Joe Burns advances a form of class struggle unionism that places rank-and-file workplace militancy and fights within the larger fight between workers and the owning class, the one dialectically building on the other.  In doing so, he addresses a key set of questions faced by those who want to renew a fighting labor movement: “How to relate to the union establishment which often does not want to fight? Whether to work in the rank and file of unions or staff jobs? How much to prioritize broader class demands versus shop floor struggle? How to relate to foundation-funded worker centers and alternative union efforts? And most critically, how can we revive militancy and union power in the face of corporate power and a legal system set up against us?”

The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Cornell ILR Press), Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta

Erica Smiley is the current and Sarita Gupta a former director of national Jobs with Justice, and they bring their broad and deep experience in a variety of labor and community struggles across the country to this effort to chart a future for democratic and progressive forces.  Over the past several decades, Jobs with Justice (JwJ) has demonstrated how involving the broader public in labor struggles and labor in community struggles expands the effectiveness of both. Likewise, JwJ has especially focused on those fights where labor, women’s, black, brown, and immigrant interests can intersect in powerful ways. The book charts a course along those lines, with chapters titled “Beyond Workers,” “Organizing All People,” and “Building Long-Term Labor-Community Power”.  Thomas Kochan calls it a “really thoughtful and creative mix of labor history, analysis of current policies and institutions, and wonderful personal stories―including their own. . . . [and] a powerful statement about what we need to do, and can do, to shape a better future for all.”

Pest (Keylight Books), Elizabeth Foscue

Pest’s protagonist Hallie Mayhew is a working-class high school senior in Santa Barbara, who is balancing multiple part-time jobs while navigating divorced parents, getting into and paying for college, and getting away from her hometown where she feels trapped. She finds herself struggling with a classic working-class student dilemma: how to make ends meet and keep up her grades, while also trying to weave in the extra-curriculars that colleges and scholarship committees expect. The Washington Post says the book is “Laugh-out-loud funny,” and that “Cheering for this scrappy underdog will appeal to younger and older adults alike.”

Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin (Harvard U. Press), Peter L’Official

Long an iconic stereotype for urban decay as an “inner-city hell hole,” the Bronx has a mythic place in our national imagination, only partly relieved by its cultural creativity as the hometown of hip-hop and a premier site of artistic graffiti.  Bronx native Peter L’Official aims to bust those stereotypes by showing the real complexity of a borough of nearly 1.5 million people.  Drawing on literature and the visual arts, L’Official focuses on the history, people, and place beyond its myths and legends, revealing a social and culture vitality that is far from its image of “a decades-long funeral pyre.”  Luc Sante calls it the “great Bronx book we have needed for decades. L’Official cuts through the foliage of lazy journalism, unexamined assumptions, and political rhetoric and brings together the voices of writers, rappers, social scientists, and people on the street. The result is a nuanced picture of the South Bronx, which for almost a century has been mostly neglected, scorned, and viewed as expendable―perhaps one of New York City’s biggest crimes.”

Talking to the Girls: Intimate and Political Essays on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (NYU Press), Edvige Giunta and Mary Anne Trasciatti, editors.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 killed 146 workers, most young immigrant women and girls, in 15 minutes.  But it was an event that has mobilized garment and other workers around the world for more than a century.  This collection of 19 essays reflects both on the tragedy itself and the impact it has had in the immediate aftermath of the fire and since.  The diverse voices of the essayists include writers, artists, and scholars from across the globe, as well as family members of Triangle workers.  The publisher promises “a story of contemporary global relevance [that] stands as an act of collective testimony: a written memorial to the Triangle victims.”

Mobile Girls Koottam: Working Women Speak (Zubaan Books), Madhumita Duhtta.

While doing doctoral work in Tamil Nadu in southern India, author Madhumita Dutta met several women working in a Nokia electronics factory—and over a course of regular meetings, a radio podcast was born. This book is taken from transcripts of the radio podcast, with the addition of illustrations by Madhushree Basu. It presents the women’s experiences of factory work, but also explores their larger lives and dreams. Writing in The Hindu, P.V. Srividya says, “It is striking how the secular migrant work space also makes [the women’s] camaraderie possible. The women show us how female bodies that work on the assembly line negotiate bodily pain, scheming ways of rest and forming quiet solidarities.”

Division Street (Dewi Lewis Publishing), Robert Gumpert

In 2016 San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl, and to clean up the city’s image, officials herded its homeless people and families into Division Street, where the extent of homelessness in the city would be out of sight and out of mind.  Photographer Robert Gumpert followed them to Division Street to document the ‘”division of communities, between the wealth of the few and the expendability of the many, in San Francisco, in the USA and across the World.”  This book is built around Gumpert’s photographs, but it adds first-person storytelling, messages left on the street, media headlines, and politician’s characterizations to make the book what the publisher calls “a collaboration between many communities.”

No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy: Memoirs of a Working-Class Reader (Canongate Books), Mark Hodkinson

Today Mark Hodkinson is an author, journalist, and publisher, but he grew up in a working-class household in Rochdale, UK (near Sheffield and Leeds) that had only one book.  He now lives in Rochdale again, surrounded by some 3,500 books.  This memoir is about his growing up working class and his life-long love of reading.  The publisher describes it thus: “It’s about schools (bad), music (good) and the people (some mad, a few sane), and pre-eminently and profoundly the books and authors (some bad, mostly good) that led the way, and shaped his life. It’s also about a family who just didn’t see the point of reading, and a troubled grandad who, in his own way, taught Mark the power of stories.”

Proper Etiquette in the Slaughterhouse Line (Gutter Snob Books), James Duncan

Duncan’s newest collection of poems focuses on office work and the grind of mundane cubicle culture in the beginning, but then spirals into an apocalyptic tale. Writer Frank Reardon: “These are poems in the vein of Carver, Bukowski, and James Wright. Workers, fighters, and people with little hope, trapped in a system they cannot beat, but sometimes can beat late at night during the exhausted hours. These poems take the everyday mundane existence we are force fed eight hours a day and show us there is hope, but only if we are willing to open the doors of the slaughterhouse.” Author John Crochalski says “Duncan does a superb job of showing us our humanity exactly as we are living it, the pain, the struggle, the sickness and all the manifestations of any joys we can find to keep ourselves grounded.”

Romantic Environmental Sensibility: Nature, Class and Empire (Edinburgh U. Press), Ve-Yin Tee, ed.

This collection of essays seeks to reveal how representations of the land and the plants, animals, and people who live on the land are shaped by “habits of thought that are profoundly class-based.”  With a focus on Romantic ideas of nature, one set of essays focus on how “Green Imperialism” shaped British perception and policy in India and elsewhere in Asia.  Other essays show how “current approaches to conservation and animal rights continue to be influenced by a class-bound Romantic environmental sensibility.”

The Return of Inequality: Social Change and the Weight of the Past (Harvard U. Press), Mike Savage

The facts of growing income and wealth inequality are clear, everywhere but especially in English-speaking countries like the US and UK.  Sociologist Mike Savage argues here that our increasing levels of inequality threaten much more than statistical gaps in wage and wealth levels.  “By fracturing social bonds and harnessing the democratic process to the strategies of a resurgent aristocracy of the wealthy, inequality revives political conditions we thought we had moved beyond: empires and dynastic elites, explosive ethnic division, and metropolitan dominance that consigns all but a few cities to irrelevance. . . . Westerners have been slow to appreciate that inequality undermines the very foundations of liberal democracy: faith in progress and trust in the political community’s concern for all its members.”

Police, Provocation, Politics: Counterinsurgency in Istanbul (Cornell U. Press)), Deniz Yonucu

In this book Deniz Yonucu shows how counterinsurgency strategies from the Cold War and the decolonization process continue to inform policing in Istanbul.  According to the publisher: “Situating Turkish policing within a global context and combining archival work and oral history narratives with ethnographic research . . . Yonucu presents a counterintuitive analysis of contemporary policing practices, focusing particular attention on the incitement of counterviolence, perpetual conflict, and ethnosectarian discord by the state security apparatus.”

Monetary Authorities: Capitalism and Decolonization in the American Colonial Philippines (Duke U. Press), Allan Lumba

By focusing on American colonization in the Philippines, Allan Lumba shows how “the United States used monetary policy and banking systems to justify racial and class hierarchies, enforce capitalist exploitation, and counter movements for decolonization” in other US imperial adventures.  According to the publisher: “By showing how imperial governance was entwined with the racialization and regulation of monetary systems . . .  Lumba illuminates a key mechanism through which the United States securitized the imperial world order.”

The WCSA’s 2022 Award Winners

No doubt, we’re living in troubled and troubling times, but as WCSA past-president, Allison L. Hurst writes in her discussion of the winners of this year’s Working-Class Studies Association awards, we have room for both hope and concern. You’ll find details on some of the best dissertations, articles, books, and media projects produced in 2020 & 2021 in her post, “Hope & Concern: the WCSA’s 2022 Award Winners,” published in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives.

Life-Time Achievement Awarded: Barb Jensen

And we’re delighted to announce this award given to Barb Jensen at the 2022 WCSA Conference in recognition of her important work!

Barb Jensen at the WCSA 22 Conference, Corvallis, Oregon, June 22, 2022. Photo by Jen Vernon.

FAQs for Conference Goers

Are you getting ready to arrive in Corvallis?

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) with answers from the Conference Organizers!

Where do I sign inWe will have a registration table set up at 3pm Monday in the International Living and Learning Building, conference dormitory space.  If you are staying in the dorms, just walk downstairs and find the table!  If you are coming from the Hilton Garden Inn, it’s a short walk.  Registration will end at 5pm.  Registration will resume the following morning in the Memorial Union, the main conference site.

How can I park on campus?  Hopefully, you will not need to! If you are staying in the dorms or the conference hotel, the campus is right there and the conference site a short walk.  If you are coming from elsewhere in or out of town, you will need to arrange to purchase a parking pass for the day(s).  They are about $10 per day and you can find information here

How do I get to the downtown opening reception? Our opening reception is a pretty casual get together at a food truck court called Common Fields.  It is easily walkable from campus (0.7 miles from the dorms. 1 mile from the MU conference site).  Corvallis is flat and the weather is expected to be perfectly lovely (low 70s).  The nicest walking path is down Campus Way, which then becomes Madison Avenue.  There is parking downtown if you are driving.  And we also have free city buses, although they only run until 6pm.  You can find information on the bus routes here.

Are there any special tricks to getting around Corvallis in general?  YES!  Avenues are named after US Presidents in sequential order running West-East, with Washington the furthest South.  The main avenue north of campus is Monroe (President #5).  Cross-streets are numbers, with 1st running North-South against the Willamette River. Downtown is essentially 1st to 5th, Jefferson to Jackson.  OSU sits mostly between 15th to the East and 26th to the West, and then Monroe to the North and Washington to the South.  If you take 9th street North past the first 15 presidents, you get to the area of town that has big box stores and franchise restaurants. 

Where can I eat?  We will provide a list of breakfast and lunch restaurant options for you when you register. We hope you will join us for the Banquet Wednesday night.  For other dinners, we recommend going downtown and seeing what strikes your fancy.  Corvallis has a lot to offer!

And for those of you getting ready to attend the parallel ZOOM ONLY Conference:

When do I get the zoom links for the panels?  We will be sending those out to all zoom registrants shortly before the start of the conference.  We will be sending those to you using the email you registered with.  If you do not receive those zoom links before Monday afternoon, please contact us at wcsa2022conference@gmail.com

WCSA Officer Nominations Reminder!

Dear WCSA Members, 

Nominations for WCSA officers are now open. We need nominees for the following positions for the 2022-23 year:

  • President-Elect (3-year cycle through President and Past President)
  • Secretary (2-year term)
  • Two at-large members of the Executive Committee (2-year terms)
  • Chair-Elect of Working-Class Academics Section (2-year cycle through Chair)
  • One member of the Elections Committee (3-year term)

We welcome self-nominations. For descriptions of each position, see “V. Responsibility of Officers” in our Constitutional bylaws (pdf).  Please send nominations to the Chair of the Elections Committee, Jill Ann Harrison at jah@uoregon.edu. If you are self-nominating, please send a brief bio that can be circulated during the election. If nominating someone else, please include an email address so we can contact that person. 

Nominations will remain open through the Business Meeting at our Conference June 20-23, 2022 at Oregon State University (and over Zoom). Don’t miss it! And please act now if you are willing to serve or know someone who is.

Talk with Dr. Louise Powell and Working-Class Creatives

Please join us for a free 1-hour Zoom talk with Dr. Louise Powell, director of Counter-Culture, and other working-class creatives on Monday morning, 10-11, Pacific time, 6/20.

Working-class film-maker and interdisciplinary arts professor, Minda Martin, University of Washington, Bothell will also join in as a friendly respondent. Read more about this happening on the EventBrite and register to participate.

Get inspired by the artistry of Counter-Culture to create, collaborate, and congregate! Then sashay into the WCSA Conference beginning later in the day.

Hope to see you!

*Featured photo, Martin de Arriba, Unsplash.

Call for Papers

CFP: Italian Fantastika: Re-Imagining Identity via the Speculative Fictions of the Italian Diaspora

Proposals due: July 22, 2022

Individual entries: Between 7,000 and 8,000 words

Subject areas: Italian Diaspora Studies, Speculative Fiction, Film and Media Studies, Comics Studies, Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States

Speculative fictions, writ large, call on their readers to ask “what if,” to consider possibilities too difficult or too emotional for verisimilitudinous treatment. Wayne Booth and Martha Nussbaum have considered this potential an ethical strength of fiction–an ability to work out knotty or nuanced questions of right and wrong. Bruno Bettelheim and the Frankfurt School saw many uses of enchantment. Ytasha Womack, Donna Haraway, and Sianne Ngai have theorized narrative as a technology for imagining more just political orders. In light of these critical traditions, this book seeks to investigate whether speculative fictions are a vehicle for examining Italian diasporic identities and the implications of those identities in a broader world. It also asks what Italian cultures in diaspora have to teach us about fantasy, science fiction, and horror today.

The editors of this anthology are interested in Italian/American science fiction, fantasy, and horror multimedia narratives – which we will signify collectively as “fantastika” – as a means of exploring the present and future of Italian ethnic and cultural identity and in expanding the academic field of Italian Diaspora Studies. This project has the potential to reorient thinking about Italian Studies away from primarily nostalgic modes into more forward-looking territory, as well as to encourage a consideration of fantastika’s potential of serving as an alternative storytelling paradigm to realism, the default mode of immigrant and diaspora narrative. The editors chose the term fantastika to represent genres such as horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and are interested in essays that examine works produced in a variety of media, including books, films, television and streaming shows, comic books, video games, and other forms of visual art. To place these American works in their proper context, we will also include research considering fantastika produced in Italy and its legacy both in its country of origin and abroad. Significantly, the term “fantastika” comes from Russian and Polish science fiction scholarship and has been popularized domestically by John Clute in the essay “Fantastika in the World Storm,” from Pardon this Intrusion.

The CFP will request articles that confront the following themes and genres:

  • speculative comics/graphic narratives and/versus “fumetti”
  • writers and artists in television and film of the fantastic
  • authors of horror, sci fi, fantasy
  • characters in horror, science fiction, fantasy
  • horror/science fiction/fantasy images of or by Italian-Americans
  • Italian American identity as a site of fantastic fiction
  • Italian American scholars of fantastika: horror, science fiction, and fantasy

We will also request that contributors address some of the following key questions and themes:

  • intersectional Italian-American identities
  • race, class, and/or gender as/and Italian-American identity
  • queering Italian-American identity
  • “cyborg” identities
  • using Italian-American identity to interrogate assimilation and the marginalization of nonassimilated populations
  • relationship of “Italian” and “Italian-American” identities in a global age
  • foodways as a marker of identity
  • nostalgia in/as speculative fiction

Finally, we will ask each essay to be accompanied by a first-person metanarrative describing the inspiration for the essay and the contributor’s positionality.

The editors have a list of possible topics and primary and secondary sources available upon request.

Please submit your proposal to the editors (Lisa DeTora, Marc DiPaolo, and Anthony Lioi) via italianfantastika@gmail.edu

Awards 2022 Press Release

June 8, 2022

2022 Working Class Studies Association Awards for Work Produced in 2020 or 2021

CONTACT: Allison L. Hurst, Past President and 2022 Awards Coordinator, hursta@oregonstate.edu

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 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 now are in for the 2022 annual WCSA Awards for significant contributions to working-class studies in the previous two years of 2020 and 2021. The winners are listed below along with comments from the judges. 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 winners this year:

Winant, Gabriel. 2021. The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. Harvard University Press.

Winant’s book does an excellent of exploring postindustrial decline, documenting the connection between the era dominated by union labor and the era dominated by the health care industry, focusing on one key industrial city, Pittsburgh.  Scholarly yet very accessible, The Next Shift examines the relationship between the industrial and service economies, the ways both the steel and health care industries have been racialized, and how and why the U.S., with its unfinished New Deal, has diverged from other wealthy deindustrializing countries.

Berg, Heather. 2021. Porn Work: Sex, Labor, and Late Capitalism. University of North Carolina Press.

Berg’s book is an important study of pornography as work in the contemporary U.S., looking at the industry without stereotypes, as a part of the gig economy.  Porn Work is a well written, theoretically nuanced ethnographic discussion of sex work in terms of precarious labor, shifting class positions, and the rejection of alienated labor.

Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

Wilkinson, Crystal. 2021. Perfect Black. University Press of Kentucky.

Conjures an Affrilachian space in her lyrical writing and expands the sense of place that many diverse working-class people claim as home…In this collection of poems and one short prose piece, Wilkinson tells her story: the story of an Affrilachian woman whose mother is not able to care for her. The imagery is strong and fresh; the voice is natural yet commanding. The use of dialect in poems such as “The Water Witch on Reading” vocalize Black rural speech. A true achievement for a first book of poems…. I admired the ambition of the collaboration here, with the drawings and illustrations combining to give additional nuance and energy to the writing. I was also struck by how Wilkinson stayed true to her roots while on the journey to becoming the writer and academic she has become. A poem like “Bones” really stood out for me for its imagery and sound and the pure force of capturing her working-class world.

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

There are two winners this year:

Purser, Gretchen and Brian Hennigan.  2020. “Both Sides of the Paycheck: Recommending Thrift to the Poor in Job Readiness Programs.” Critical Sociology 47(3): 389-406.

This article is exemplary of academic working-class studies, with quantifiable, original scholarship that also captures and illustrates the lived experience of working-class people. Programs for “training” of poor people in job and financial “literacy” by professional middle class entrepreneurial types is ubiquitous in the late 20th/early21st centuries but the subject is rarely discussed.  This study is concise and to the point, with a biting critique that pulls no punches with, again, both excellent field work and personal stories that illustrate its message.  It delivers its message on “financially illiterate” subjects with irony, tenderness and insight into them, as well as into their clueless, classist, and racist “trainers.”  Though a substantial sector of our society, “job and financial literacy training” is almost wholly invisible to the people of the professional class. This article stands as an exemplar of how well capitalism excludes and blames people on the bottom rungs of our economy for their plight.

Nichter, Matt.  2021.“’Did Emmett Till Die in Vain?  Organized Labor Says NO!’: The United Packinghouse Workers and Civil Rights Unionism in the Mid-1950.” Labor 18 (2): 8–40.

This article’s re-positioning of the Emmett Till case in the context of working-class studies is insightful, and seamlessly unites civil and labor rights.  Both the substantial research and the engaging style of writing made this article outstanding.  It is particularly relevant to our current social moment and demonstrates the immense solidarity that can occur when Labor fights racism.  It is also an important reminder to working-class studies scholars that the often-noted racism of white working-class workers can be, and has been, overcome to spectacular effect.

Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

Walley, Christine and Chris Boebel for the digital humanities project ‘The Southeast Chicago Archive and Storytelling Project’.

This is a path-breaking, collaborative digital humanities project by Walley, a professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boebel, a documentary filmmaker.  Their project uses a range of research methodologies to interpret historical aspects of the working-class experience in the South-East side of Chicago, Illinois.  It is accessible to a wide audience as a compelling work of public history.  The interactive digital archive that Walley and Boebel created with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum and web artist Jeff Soyk will be of enormous interest to labor activists, rank-and-file workers, and academics.

Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

There are two winners this year:

Stevens, Rhiannon.  2021. Young People’s Access to Employment in Disadvantaged Communities in Wales. Cardiff University.

This is an important study of young working-class people in a de-industrialised town in Wales. Stevens uses the voices of the young people to show how class works to shape the ways young people understand their potential for employment and careers. The young people are affected by class stereotypes and deficit models that write them off. But they also show the importance of community and relationships for young working-class people. This ethnography is handled with care and sensitivity and Stevens centres the stories of the subjects. The thesis is clear and accessible and its message of hope and agency is to be applauded….This dissertation has promising methodologies of class analysis, of precisely the type we need in WCSA.

McAloney, Kim. 2021. Virtual Liberatory Women of Color Mentorship.  Oregon State University.

The thesis uses personal narratives and poetry as well as traditional research to argue for the importance of mentorships for working-class women scholars of colour. The result is an affecting narrative that demonstrates the liberatory potential of such mentor relationships (what McAloney calls ‘liberationships’), and also outlines how mentorships can be maintained and fostered in an online environment (in this case, due to the pandemic). McAloney highlights the value of ‘women of colour ways of knowing’ and ‘endarkened feminism’ and shows how these ways of knowing operate to resist white supremacy and racial capitalism. The thesis fits in very well with the aims of working-class studies, to use narratives and to reveal the intersections of class, race and gender. And the work is engaging and accessible to read…Brilliant and necessary… polished and sophisticated while also being relevant to our field and pushing working-class scholarship to intersectional methods.

Jake Ryan and Charles Sackrey Working-Class Academics Award

There are two winners this year:

Fazio, Michele, Christie Launius, and Tim Strangleman, editors. 2021. Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies. Routledge.

The Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies, edited by Michele Fazio, Christie Launius, and Tim Strangleman, has won the 2022 Ryan Sackrey Award. The volume offers an invaluable contribution to understanding the experiences of working-class academics. Written by several scholars of working-class background, not only does this volume make substantial and impressive contributions to the field of Working-Class Studies but its various chapters on scholarly personal narrative, first-generation faculty, working-class teacher pedagogies, and activism in and out of the community college classroom map the many locations and innovations of working-class academics’ scholarship and teaching. In that the Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies shows working-class academics doing their work—on the page, in the classroom, in their communities, and in interdisciplinary conversation with each other—it stands out as an example of what is possible now and for future generations of scholars of working-class backgrounds.

Baldwin, Davarian L. 2021. In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities. Bold Type Books.

A first-generation scholar of working-class origins, Baldwin expands the interdisciplinary promise of Working-Class Studies by combining urban studies, critical university studies, and Black and Latinx studies to explore the phenomenon of rich universities gentrifying the neighborhoods in which they are not responsible community members but rather, increasingly, landlords. But what happens to the people who were already there, the poor and working-classes and people of color who might have crossed over into the academy to become scholars themselves but who instead are exploited as low-wage higher education laborers and overpoliced outsiders to the “UniverCity”? An investigation of an under-studied power grab, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower tells an old story of class warfare in the new context of the knowledge economy, the universities that ground it, and the underclasses who pay.

Thanks to All the Judges:

Sarah Attfield, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Matt Brim, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Jim Daniels, Alma College low-residency MFA Program, Michigan

Jackie Goode, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Loughborough University, England

Michael Grimes, Louisiana State University, emeritus, Louisiana

Scott Henkel, University of Wyoming, Wyoming

Barb Jensen, Independent Scholar and Community Psychologist, Minnesota

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

Ray Mazurek, The Pennsylvania State University, emeritus, Pennsylvania

Asia Muhammad, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, North Carolina

David Roediger, American Studies, University of Kansas, Kansas

Jason Russell, Labor Studies, SUNY Empire State College, New York

Joseph Sciorra, Queens College, The City University of New York, New York

Michelle Tokarczyk, Goucher College, Maryland

Joseph Varga, Indiana University, Indiana

Jen Vernon, Sierra College, Nisenan lands and California

Christine Walley, MIT, Massachusetts

Robert M. Zecker, Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, Canada

In this Week’s Working-Class Perspectives – Immersed in the Work of Art

‘Working-class people many not be able to afford these exhibits, but they are present nonetheless. As I found myself immersed in such paintings like Worker’s Noon Rest from Work in Field, The Sower, The Red Vineyards at Arles, and The Large Plane Trees, I noticed Van Gogh’s attention to ordinary workers.’

Immersive art exhibits have become a popular and profitable form of entertainment in the COVID era. The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit Kathy M. Newman visited in Pittsburgh was just one of several currently running or coming soon to cities around the world. She reports on the experience and how these shows foreground but also disrupt work in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives.

Working-Class ‘Sheros’

Inspired by Lisa Kirby’s ‘working-class heroes essay contest’, we want to hear about your working-class ‘𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘴’. Send a picture & a paragraph/audio clip about why they are a working-class shero to you to wcsasite@gmail.com. We’re excited to learn about your sheros!

Naomi Parker, Dolly Parton, bell hooks, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, Annie Kenney, Angel Davis, Alexandra Kollontai, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, and Shirley Chisholm.