Tuesday, January 12, 2010



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


“The struggle against tyranny is the struggle of memory against
From “The Uprising of `34”, courtesy of Milan

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:

alichtens@gmail.com and