SOUTHERN LABOR STUDIES CONFERENCE
Atlanta, Georgia, April 7-10, 2011
Co-Sponsored by the Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University Library; Southern Labor Studies Association; Labor and Working Class History Association
MEMORY AND FORGETTING: LABOR HISTORY AND THE ARCHIVE
“The struggle against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting”
From “The Uprising of `34”, courtesy of Milan Kundera
Keynote addresses will be given by Robert Korstad, Duke University and Alessandro Portelli, University of Rome.
Students of colonial and post-colonial societies have thought about how the very materials historians rely on to reconstruct the past—“the archive”—themselves are constituted by that past, rather than a transparent window onto it.
To coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Southern Labor Archives at GSU, the 15th Southern Labor Studies Conference proposes to turn a similar self-critical gaze on the materials labor historians rely on to produce the field of “labor history.” How does the very process of locating, constructing, and organizing the “archive” of labor and working class history shape (and constrain) the very meaning of what historians and archivists treat as labor, the worker, or the working class? How have shifting archival fashions changed our understanding of labor's history? How has the “archive”, in the broadest sense, abetted or impeded the “struggle of memory against forgetting.”
In asking these questions, the Conference Committee invites proposals that consider the “archive” in the widest terms possible. Thus we envision proposals that look at actual archival practice in libraries, museums, state governments, universities, businesses, unions, and other institutions that play an important role in documenting—and thus filtering—labor’s past, especially the past of the working class in the U.S. South. Other proposals might examine how labor historians have used particular methodologies to construct their own “archive”—most obviously through the practice of oral history, but also social activism, filmmaking, collecting, public history, memorialization, or other forms of historical practice and engagement. A third genre of proposals could look at what Antoinette Burton has called “archive stories”, experiential descriptions of archival encounters that have illuminated (or obscured) certain aspects of the working class past. Still others may want to explore the role of the archive itself in the process of memory and forgetting—how has archivalization of the past fixed certain aspects of labor history in memory, while consigning others to the realm of forgetting? Finally, we invite proposals that consider how archival work of all sorts can be linked to particular moments of working class struggle.
These questions remain especially pressing in a time, region, and country that seem intent on denying the very existence of a “working class”, both because narratives of American exceptionalism continue to insist on the absence of class relations in the nation’s past, and because recent economic transformations threaten to obliterate the material bases of work and the working class altogether.
In addition to papers and panels addressing the above themes, the SLSC also invites proposals that examine the history of the southern working class more generally.
The Committee urges submissions of complete panels, including 2-3 papers and a commentator. We also invite roundtables, collective discussions of teaching, audio or visual presentations, and any other less orthodox formats. Proposals should include 300-word abstracts for each paper and a one-page c.v. for all participants.
Please submit proposals by October 1, 2010, to:
Department of History--DM397
Florida International University
Miami, FL 33199
305-348-1535 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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