The transnational turn has introduced significant new perspectives on the history of labor and capitalism in the United States. While the state remains an important object of analysis, decentering the nation in labor history provides additional lenses that focus on circulations, interactions, and connections below or beyond the nation-state. According to Ian Tyrell, they focus attention on exchanges across national boundaries, the impact of asymmetrical power exerted by one nation, and networks of relations not contained by nation-states. In questioning a coherent, all-encompassing national narrative, the voices and visions of people and groups who have been marginalized in the context of a nationalist myopia are reclaimed.
The experiences of non-citizens and migrants, labor sojourners and “birds of passage,” inhabitants of border regions, workers of international corporations, and new digital and remote workers help provide a more complete and more complex picture of what both labor and capital have meant in various historical contexts. Negotiations of labor rights, property rights, the rights of capital or corporate personship from the emergent nation-state to globalization accounts for different appraisals of labor heroes or radicals, benevolent tycoons or robber barons. Historians such as Kiran Klaus Patel, for example, root the history of the New Deal in a global context, connecting the history of labor and capital to that of U.S. hegemony in the twentieth century. Others, such as Julie Greene, connect the immigrant experience with American empire. Likewise, Donna Gabaccia focuses on the migration world of Italian workers, and Mae Ngai traces the role of “impossible” illegal immigrant workers in the making of America.
This conference on February 11–12 brings together scholars working on labor and capital in U.S. history for virtual panels.
Attendance is free of charge. Register for this two-day Zoom event via Eventbrite:
You can find a conference program and more information at www.obama-institute.com/laborandcapital