Advance Seminar: The Roots of the American Working Classes: Myths, Realities, Histories

HISTORY 5884

The diverse realities of American labor and working-class experience have long been submerged under layers of politics and ideology. How should we study the lives of working people? What questions should we ask? Where do we go to answer them? This research seminar engages the lived experiences of the American working classes, in all their complexity, over the long 19th- and 20th-centuries, to the present. The course has the double project of (1) exploring the roots of mythologies about American working people that have the effect of distorting or erasing their experiences, efforts and accomplishments, and struggles for organization, visibility, citizenship, and power, with special attention to mythologies about American workers who are non-white, non-male, and non-U.S.-born who did/do not fit conventional tropes of "American labor" or "the white worker"; and (2) exploring the roots of working people's experiences, as shaped by forces of technology, class, race, gender and sexuality, religion, nationalism, and violence : what are the challenges, conceptual and archival, of studying the people, in their working and familial/community lives, as producers and consumers, in their organizing efforts, and in their civic and political capacities? How did the transformation of work, technology, culture, and society over this long era from Enslavement to Artificial Intelligence, from Blackface Minstrelsy to Hip Hop, shape working people's lives and struggles? How did working people survive cataclysmic crises, from the Civil War to Covid, and mold the evolution of American citizenship and democracy? Each student will produce a 12-15 page original research paper related to the course material, based on an analysis of primary sources, in consultation with the instructor, and due at the end of the semester; the course is designed to closely mentor students in this project. Each student must also register for the instructor's correlating section in 49IR.
Course Attributes:

Section 01

Advance Seminar: The Roots of the American Working Classes: Myths, Realities, Histories
INSTRUCTOR: Bernstein
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