Sweatshop USA

CFP: edited volume

Sweatshop U.S.A.: Essays in the New Social History

Edited by Richard A. Greenwald (United States Merchant Marine Academy) and Laura Hapke (Pace University). With a forward by Daniel Walkowitz (New York University).

The past twenty-five years have seen a revolution in the conceptualization of the American workscape. Brilliant and innovative studies have readdressed the shopfloor, leisure activities, workers' self-created culture, the ethnic/gender and racial divide over more than two hundred years of the American workforce, the relationship between workers and the state, the professionalization of labor and the decline of industry. Yet, the sweatshop has not received similar attention. It seems a kind of taboo space of inquiry.

The United States sweatshop has been a locus of urban industrial life for over a century, and particular scholarly attention has been paid to sweated labor in the formation of working-class identity in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Yet, while the sweatshop survived well past the New Deal, this subject all but disappeared from labor history until its recent centrality to the so-called global village. Although community activists, labor unions, and groups such as sweatshop Watch and the National Labor Committee have renewed a reformist discourse on the evils of the sweatshop, there has been no corresponding historical reevaluation.

The proposed collection attempts to tap work now being done by labor and working-class history scholars in a number of timely ways. The essays to be collected will trace the sweatshop as "institution," symbol and myth. What are the true origins of such oppressed labor? At what point did the sweatshop dislodge itself from the items "sweated labor," "white slavery," and the "sweating system." Moreover, why does this matter? Explored too will be the political, social, economic, gendered, and cultural aspects of the sweatshop from the mid-1800s to the present. Our hope is to renew a discourse on the sweatshop among labor scholars.

We are particularly interested in essays, which deal with the early history of sweated labor. Those interested in participating: Please send, by April 1, 2001, a brief abstract and CV to:

Richard A. Greenwald
US Merchant Marine Academy
Humanities Department
Kings Point, NY 11024

Or email as Word attachments to greenwaldr@usmma.edu.

Posted: 5 February 2001