LAWCHA Presidential Address: "Rethinking the Boundaries of Class: Lessons from Transnational Labor History and the Neoliberal University"

Solicited by the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA)

Friday, April 3, 2020, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Labor and Working-Class


Global approaches to the history of working-class people, given the critical roles played by colonialism and imperialism, require a rethinking of our conceptual toolbox. This address will argue for conceptualizing class as a field of power relations that shapes experiences even when common interests are not perceived. Similarly, confronting the crisis of labor in the contemporary university requires a broader understanding of class relationships. New approaches to conceptualizing class experience can suggest opportunities for building much-needed solidarities among tenure-track, contingent, and graduate workers.

Session Participants

Chair: William Powell Jones, University of Minnesota

Commentator: Julie Greene, University of Maryland, College Park
Julie Greene is a historian of United States labor, immigration, and empire and professor of history at the University of Maryland.  Her research and teaching also engage with transnational and global approaches to history. She is the author of The Canal Builders: Making America's Empire at the Panama Canal (Penguin Press, 2009), The Organization of American Historians awarded The Canal Builders its 2009 James A. Rawley Prize for the best book on the history of race relations. Greene’s recent articles include “Movable Empire: Labor Migration, U.S. Global Power, and the Remaking of the Americas,” in Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2016) and “The Wages of Empire: Capitalism, Expansionism, and Working-Class Formation,” in Jana Lipman and Daniel Bender, eds., Making the Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism (NYU, 2015). Other articles include "Spaniards on the Silver Roll: Liminality and Labor Troubles in the Panama Canal Zone, 1904-1914," in International Labor and Working-Class History (Fall 2004) and "The Labor of Empire: Recent Scholarship on U.S. History and Imperialism," in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas(Summer 2004). She is also author of Pure and Simple Politics: The American Federation of Labor and Political Activism, 1881-1917 (Cambridge, 1998); co-editor, with Eric Arnesen and Bruce Laurie, of Labor Histories: Class, Politics, and the Diversity of the Working-Class Experience (Illinois, 1998); and associate editor, with Eileen Boris, John French, Joan Sangster, and Shelton Stromquist (with Leon Fink as editor), of Workers, the Nation-State, and Beyond: Essays in the Labor History of the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Panelist: Trevor Griffey, University of California, Los Angeles
Trevor Griffey is a Lecturer in U.S. History and Labor Studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), where he is co-President and Director of Organizing of the California Faculty Association (CFA) at CSUDH. He also serves as Faculty Delegate on the Executive Board of University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) Local 1990. Griffey is the co-founder of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, and co-editor of Black Power at Work: Community Control, Affirmative Action and the Construction Industry (Cornell U Press, 2010). His dissertation, "Black Power's Labor Politics: The United Construction Workers Association and Title VII Law in the 1970s", won the 2012 American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch (AHA-PCB) W. Turrentine Jackson Dissertation Award for the "Most outstanding dissertation in 2011 on any aspect of the history of the American West." He received his PhD in U.S. History from the University of Washington in 2011. 

Panelist: Lara Elizabeth Putnam, University of Pittsburgh
Lara Putnam is UCIS Research Professor in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh, where she has been Department Chair since 2014.  She writes on Latin American and Caribbean history, theories and methods of transnational history, and issues of migration, kinship, and gender.  She is author, most recently, of Radical Moves: Caribbean Migrants and the Politics of Race in the Jazz Age (UNC Press, 2013), and “The Transnational and the Text-Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast,” American Historical Review (2016). She is immediate Past President of the Conference on Latin American History and consulting editor for digital initiatives for the American Historical Review, and her recent honors include the 32nd Annual Elsa Goveia Memorial Lectureship at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica (2016). Putnam also researches and writes about contemporary grassroots political organizing in the United States, with recent publications in, The New Republic, Washington Post Outlook, Washington Monthly and Democracy Journal.

Panelist: Joe William Trotter Jr., Carnegie Mellon University
Joe William Trotter, Jr., is Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice and Founder and Director of the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of Black Milwaukee and Coal, Class, and Color and past President of the Labor and Working Class History Association. His most recent book is Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2019).