Labor and Empire

ddlab_13_3_4In the most recent issue of Labor, “Land and Empire,” edited by Leon Fink and Julie Greene, contributors consider the question: “Who built the US empire?” By taking us into the world of working class people across North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, the essays in this double issue recount a history of empire building focused on the interconnections between capitalist and state expansionism.

Topics include labor and resistance in the US Army during the Civil War, Imperial politics of Filipino labor, Puerto Rican laborers in the Dominican Republic, and the decolonization of Korean labor under US occupation, among others.

From the introduction:

The articles in this double issue of Labor thus emerge from and reflect an exciting field of historical research and intellectual engagement, including new directions in transnational and imperial history and renewed engagement in both of these fields by labor historians. Together they demonstrate the inextricable connections between the history of US empire and the history of labor. The articles reveal dynamics in the logic of US empire that would not be visible in a top-down historical methodology. Furthermore, they demonstrate that what we think of as “US labor history” involved working people and sites of labor around the world. They challenge us not only to make global processes and interactions relevant to our narratives and interpretations of labor and working-class history but, more particularly, to realize the significance of imperial and colonial power relations in shaping that broader labor history. Five major themes weave through the essays as they engage with the labor history of empire. They draw our attention to the unfree labor of military service and its central role in building North American and US empire; struggles over citizenship in the unequal territories of the United States; the complex role of colonial and postcolonial subjects as migrant laborers; the labor tensions involved in US occupations; and labor migration as central to the logic of empire.

Read the full introduction, made freely available.

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