SoSe 14: Visual Histories of Labor, Gender, and Occupational Health in the Progressive Era - Blockseminar
Upon reflecting on her life's work as a pioneer in the field of occupational medicine, Alice Hamilton lamented in her memoirs the comparative silence surrounding industrial health for American ... read more
Upon reflecting on her life's work as a pioneer in the field of occupational medicine, Alice Hamilton lamented in her memoirs the comparative silence surrounding industrial health for American workers in respect to their European counterparts in the early part of the twentieth century. They appeared, she writes, only as bodies of interest when "tainted" by notions of "socialism and feminine sentimentality for the poor", rather than as subjects of scientific and medical discourse. This seminar will take a closer look at these tainted bodies as they appeared visually in all manner of cultural, medical and sociological sources, from popular fictional texts to slumming accounts, sociological reports and reformer's observations, newspapers and popular print and medical and industrial safety documents and films with a particular emphasis on the gendered visual discourse of occupational health and how it shaped and was shaped by Progressive Era ideals and values. From the men of steel in Pittsburgh mines to the charred bodies of the women of the Triangle Factory Fire, larger themes of Progressive Era labor and gender and the use of visual materials to constitute these categories will be explored. Keeping Hamilton's observation in mind, the links between cultural discourse and its scientific and medical results on the factory floor serve to complicate Progressive teleology.
This seminar will engage both with primary and secondary texts pertaining to occupational health and safety and industrial hazards as well as with some of the foundational theoretical texts regarding the use of visual sources in historical research.