In linking forms of cultural expression to labor, occupational injuries, and deaths, Hands: Physical Labor, Class, and Cultural Work centers what is usually decentered--the complex culture of working-class people. Janet Zandy begins by examining the literal loss of lives to unsafe jobs and occupational hazards. She asks critical and timely questions about worker representation--who speaks for employees when the mills, mines, factories, and even white-collar cubicles shut down? She presents the voices of working-class writers and artists, and discusses their contribution to knowledge and culture.
This innovative study reveals the flesh and bone beneath the abstractions of labor, class, and culture. It is an essential contribution to the emerging field of working-class studies, offering a hybrid model for bridging communities and non-academic workers to scholars and institutions of knowledge.
Honorable Mention, 2016 Errol Hill Book Award for Outstanding Scholarship in African American Theater, Drama and/or Performance
Based on a vast amount of archival research, Adrienne Macki Braconi’s illuminating study of three important community-based theaters in Harlem shows how their work was essential to the formation of a public identity for African Americans and the articulation of their goals, laying the groundwork for the emergence of the Civil Rights movement. Macki Braconi uses textual analysis, performance reconstruction, and audience reception to examine the complex dynamics of productions by the Krigwa Players, the Harlem Experimental Theatre, and the Negro Theatre of the Federal Theatre Project. Even as these theaters demonstrated the extraordinary power of activist art, they also revealed its limits. The stage was a site in which ideological and class differences played out, theater being both a force for change and a collision of contradictory agendas. Macki Braconi’s book alters our understanding of the Harlem Renaissance, the roots of the Civil Rights movement, and the history of community theater in America.
Harlem is one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world—a historic symbol of both black cultural achievement and of the rigid boundaries separating the rich from the poor. But as this book shows us, Harlem is far more culturally and economically diverse than its caricature suggests: through extensive fieldwork and interviews, John L. Jackson reveals a variety of social networks and class stratifications, and explores how African Americans interpret and perform different class identities in their everyday behavior.
Over the last forty years, the human landscape of the United States has been fundamentally transformed. The metamorphosis is partially visible in the ascendance of glittering, coastal hubs for finance, infotech, and the so-called creative class. But this is only the tip of an economic iceberg, the bulk of which lies in the darkness of the declining heartland or on the dimly lit fringe of sprawling cities. This is America’s hinterland, populated by towering grain threshers and hunched farmworkers, where laborers drawn from every corner of the world crowd into factories and “fulfillment centers” and where cold storage trailers are filled with fentanyl-bloated corpses when the morgues cannot contain the dead.
Urgent and unsparing, this book opens our eyes to America’s new heart of darkness. Driven by an ever-expanding socioeconomic crisis, America’s class structure is recomposing itself in new geographies of race, poverty, and production. The center has fallen. Riots ricochet from city to city led by no one in particular. Anarchists smash financial centers as a resurgent far right builds power in the countryside. Drawing on his direct experience of recent popular unrest, from the Occupy movement to the wave of riots and blockades that began in Ferguson, Missouri, Phil A. Neel provides a close-up view of this landscape in all its grim but captivating detail. Inaugurating the new Field Notes series, published in association with the Brooklyn Rail, Neel’s book tells the intimate story of a life lived within America’s hinterland.