Urban Inequalities: Labor and Social Reproduction in the American City, 1870–1980

AHA Session 90
Labor and Working Class History Association 2
Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Director's Row H (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Lobby Level)
Katherine Leonard Turner, Rowan University
Katherine Leonard Turner, Rowan University

Session Abstract

This panel offers a labor history of social reproduction, connecting the daily work of care, instruction, feeding, and cleaning with the central structures and trajectories of the capitalist political economy, in a range of urban settings from the proprietary firms and households of the mid-nineteenth century through the towers of Depression-era New York to the churning of deindustrialization in 1970s Pittsburgh and Detroit. The wage labor of steel mills and auto plants was itself constituted by the work of survival, most often carried out by women in households as unpaid labor. Transcending binaries which cast the home and household as apolitical sites of consumption and retreat from the pressures of capitalist markets, these papers show how households and the labor of social reproduction was both constitutive of the surrounding political economy and was shot through with inequality and gendered forms of power and hierarchy. By connecting work on the shopfloor with the labors of kitchens, homes, clinics and schools, a fuller account of the gendered and racialized experiences of working-class formation comes to the fore, one that is more ambivalent, multi-vocal and attentive to the intricate local geographies of urban inequality.  
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