Pitt to Host Working Class Studies Association Conference on Class Matters

Issue Date: 
May 26, 2009

The 2009 conference of the Working Class Studies Association (WCSA) will be held June 3-6 in the University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union. The biennial gathering—four days of panels, workshops, and performances—draws hundreds of activists, artists, educators, scholars, and students from around the world.

The conference comes to Pittsburgh after stints in Youngstown, Ohio, and St. Paul, Minn. This year’s conference theme is Class Matters.

“Pittsburgh is the right place for an event on the theme of Class Matters,” said Nicholas Coles, conference organizer and a professor in Pitt’s Department of English. “Aside from being attractive to visitors, the city has a deep tradition of industry, labor, and ethnic migrations, and now the turn to a greener economy. The time is right, too. Understanding how class affects us socially and economically may be more important now than any period since the 1930s.”

Conference speakers include labor historian David Montgomery, the Farnam Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, on class and empire; educator Ira Shor, a professor in the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, on class in the classroom; Bill Fletcher Jr., director of Field Services and Education, American Federation of Government Employees, on the current economic crisis; and Fred Redmond, international vice-president, United Steelworkers, on labor and globalization.

There also will be evening performances, including music by Anne Feeney and Friends, Mike Stout and the Human Union, and Nelson Harrison and the Pittsburgh Jazz Network All-Stars; a dramatic adaptation of Thomas Bell’s “Out of This Furnace”; and “The Point of Pittsburgh,” a history of the city told through readings, music, and visual art. In addition, tours have been arranged to historical sites in the valleys of the Monongahela, Ohio, and Allegheny rivers.

“The conference caps off the Pittsburgh 250 celebration by looking at the city’s history of production and struggle, how time and again the aims of political and corporate elites collided with homegrown, organized resistance—how this class-based resistance often created improved conditions,” said conference cochair Charles McCollester, director of the Pennsylvania Center for Labor Relations and professor of industrial and labor relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).

The conference is supported by WCSA, IUP’s labor center, and Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences, as well as by programs and volunteers from Pitt’s Departments of English, Anthropology, History, and Sociology and the Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies programs; Carlow University Women’s Studies Program; Carnegie Mellon University Department of English; Chatham University; Duquesne University Women’s and Gender Studies Center; Youngstown State University Center for Working-Class Studies; the United Steelworkers of America; and the Battle of Homestead Foundation.
For more information, visit the conference Web site at www.workingclassstudies.pitt.edu.