This Week’s Working-Class Perspectives

We understand war through the stories and images available to us, which may not always capture the economic hardships that war brings. In the case of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, videos and photographs offer stories of collective efforts by Ukrainians but also the individual characters of Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky.

As media critic James V. Catano writes in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives, they have been presented in terms that reflect contrasting versions of masculinity, one an elitist executive and the other the heroic leader of a group of equals. Yet as Catano reminds us, the war’s primary victims are those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Journal of Working-Class Studies

Did you know that the Journal of Working-Class Studies is open access and available online? Well, now you do. Keep your eyes peeled for more insightful quotes on working-class lives and experiences.

You can access the journal here.

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.