Working People, Working Environments: Event, Context, and Process in Writing Eco-social Histories of the Americas

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Houston Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
John Soluri, Carnegie Mellon University
My presentation will focus on recent efforts to integrate environmental and labor histories in the Americas.  I will argue that scholarly endeavors to integrate the two fields represent an important advance in both fields by revealing the interactivity of ecological and social processes.  However, to date, historians arguably have had more success  “re-embedding” work and workers in particular eco-social “scapes” (scholars have employed a variety of terms for spatial contexts), than in demonstrating if or how ecological dynamics help us explain social transformations in specific times and places.  I will draw on examples from the banana, coal, oil, and timber industries to illustrate some of the challenges associated with integrating environmental history with narratives of strikes, communal protests, and revolutions that have been central to labor and social histories of working peoples.