2017 Working Class Studies Association Awards Announced


2017 Working Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2016


Tim Strangleman, immediate-past president and 2016 awards organizer


Each year, the Working Class Studies Association (WCSA) issues a number of awards to recognize the best new work in the field of working-class studies.  This year, they will be awarded in June 2017 at our conference which will be held this year on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington May 31st-June 3rd, 2017.  The review process is organized by the past-president of the WCSA, and submissions are judged by a panel of three readers for each of the categories of awards.

The results are in for the annual WCSA Awards for significant contributions to working-class studies in the year 2016; the winners are listed below, along with judges’ comments. Together these books and articles demonstrate the scope and vitality of cultural and scholarly production in working-class studies, and serve as an inspiration to future work in the field.

CLR James Award for Published Book for Academic or General Audiences

 Angela Stuesse – Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South

 Judges’ comments:

 “In this timely, beautifully-written, and deeply researched activism-based ethnography about the poultry industry in the American South, Stuesse demonstrates how workers are exploited and divided on the basis of racial and ethnic identities within the context of neoliberal globalization.”

“Angela Stuesse’s SCRATCHING OUT A LIVING is a model of engaged scholarship. Without underestimating the difficulties her research reveals that the basis for inter-racial working class solidarity among African Americans and Latinos in the South does indeed exist in the newest “new” South.”

Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

 David LaBounty and Tim Applegate – Workers Write: Tales From the Construction Site

 Judges’ comments:

 “This collection gets at the very heart of what working class art, working class creative writing, looks like. It comes from varied perspectives, speaks in diverse voices, but both the perspective and the voices have at base an engaging depiction of work and the worker’s life.”

“The short stories and poems in this collection are snapshots of the experience of work and its place in a wider social life. Scenes from everyday life, tangible descriptions of work, tales that blur autobiography and imaginative purpose – each story finds its own character through this theme. The writing is consistently good throughout, across a diverse range of styles, highlighting not just the talent of the authors but of the editor’s eye. It is a book that gives expression to working class creativity: its intrinsic relationship to having to hold down a day job and pay the rent, an expression of labor in writing, and a testament to the labor of writing itself.”

“This collection of workers’ writings gives voice to the working class in a clear, authentic way. These multi-genre selections are grounded in the reality of working-class existence.”

John Russo & Sherry Linkon Award for Published Article or Essay for Academic or General Audiences

Diana Garvin – ‘Singing Truth to Power: Melodic Resistance and Bodily Revolt in Italy’s Rice Fields’, Annali d’italianistica 34 (2016). Speaking Truth to Power from Medieval to Modern Italy

 Judges’ comments:

“An ambitious interdisciplinary and intersectional project that centers the voices of working-class women in Italy during the Fascist period.  ”

“This is a superb article, indeed one of the most compelling that I’ve read for some time. It is beautifully written, theoretically trenchant, and deeply insightful as it re-presents the archive voices of the Mondine women through a careful and compassionate scholarship that itself speaks truth to power through its account of the women’s singing of truth to the power of exploitative practices of productivity and womanhood under Italian Fascism. As such, this article – of all the excellent material submitted – occupies the unique space of working class studies as I see it: that is, it brings deep and humane attention to the material interconnections of gender, class place and history as they impact on lived experience, and it does so with an impeccable balance of creative awareness, persistently probing intelligence, and scrupulous outrage. Wonderful!”

Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

 Gabriel Thompson, Dark Meat

Judges’ comments:

“Dark Meat: informative and engaging narrative, brings home personal side of poultry industry’s gaming of industrial accident rates and its efforts to increase line speeds via Dept. of Agriculture’s regulatory authority.”

“Makes the reader viscerally feel the pain of workplace injuries and overwork. Damning of the poultry and insurance companies and the workers’ comp system and OSHA. It illustrates how employers get away with mistreating workers with government collusion.”

Plus Special Commendation to The Editors of The Grind, for their series ‘The Year of Grueling Work’ of which ‘Dark Meat’ was a part. 

Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

Jackie Gabriel – “Manufacturing Precarity: A Case Study of the Grain Processing Corporation (GPC)/United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 86D Lockout in Muscatine, Iowa”

 Judges’ comments:

“I found this study on precarious jobs and precarious workers to be a fascinating and useful take on how job loss and re-employment works in the Heartland. The meteoric rise of the use of the offensive lockout by employers makes this case study of the longest lockout in US history to be especially appropriate for examination. It is a strong rumination on the relationship between workers, local unions and national headquarters.”

 “Jackie Gabriel’s research of the lockout at the Iowa processing plant “Manufacturing Precarity” was brilliant work.  Among the many things I like about this work is that it addresses the traditional issues of working class identity and work life for blue-collar men. There is plenty of discussion, much of it justified, of the need to move beyond the examination of blue-collar work, especially that of unionized male factory workers.  Gabriel shows that such calls are premature.  The workers, who were skillfully interviewed by Gabriel, were seen as honorable and dignified in their desires to hold onto their working class circumstances.  This is a classic tale of blue-collar workers being dominated by the power of the owning class, but in this case the workers held onto their dignity and, in the long run, their skills and their rewarding productive labor.”

Thanks to all the judges:

 John Beck, Michigan State University

Geoff Bright, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Gary Jones, American International College, Springfield, Massachusetts

Lisa Kirby, The Texas Center for Working-Class Studies, Collin College,

Christie Launius University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

Betsy Leondar-Wright, Class Matters

Sean McPherson, Bridgewater College

Jack Metzgar, Roosevelt University, Chicago

David Nettleingham, University of Kent, UK

Cherie Rankin, Heartland Community College Normal, IL

Jeff Torlina, Utah Valley University

Chris Walley, MIT

Deborah Warnock, Cortland College, SUNY

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