The 2019 annual meeting for the American Historical Association will take place in Chicago from January 3-6, and SHGAPE is sponsoring two great panels! Today on the blog, we’re pleased to feature a “sneak peek” of one of the sponsored sessions, “Secret Liaisons and Disloyalty: Space and Gender in Progressive-Era New York.” The panel is scheduled for Thursday, January 3 from 1:30-3:00 P.M. at the Palmer House Hilton, Salon 12, and is chaired by Timothy J. Gilfoyle (Loyola University, Chicago), featuring papers by Motoe Sasaki (Hosei University), Heather Ruth Lee (New York University), Rachel Hui-Chi Hsu (Johns Hopkins University), and Aaron Welt (New York University), with comments provided by Daniel Bender (University of Toronto). Special thanks to Motoe Sasaki for contributing this post.
Secret Liaisons and Disloyalty: Space and Gender in Progressive Era New York
The panel focuses on spatial turf wars over boundaries, ownership, and values that contributed to the reformulation of social identities during the Progressive Era. At the turn of the twentieth century, New York City was an epicenter of corporate capitalism and immigration – a kaleidoscope of vivid and startling contrasts between wealth and the poverty. These divisions, often expressed in terms of race and ethnicity, were spatially divided and structurally dismembered. There have been an array of studies on these segmented communities in New York City in previous decades. Looking beyond social and spatial divisions, this panel examines transgressions of social, class, and racial/ethnic lines, paying special attention to the interplay between space and gender.
By viewing space as a social, economic, and political arena in which interests, desires, and hopes competed, the panel scrutinizes multilateral tug of wars among various actors who were eager to enlarge their sphere of influence. Motoe Sasaki’s paper takes up Protestant bourgeois New Yorkers’ church-based activism aimed at integrating the urban public sphere through masculinizing Protestantism. Heather Ruth Lee shows how marginal men, New York’s famine Irish and disenfranchised Chinese, dominated the Chinatown economy through brokering backroom deals and political exchanges. Rachel Hui-Chi Hsu’s paper charts the gender and labor politics of Emma Goldman’s “Mother Earth family” culture, which which revealed the inception of a diverse, anarchist counter-public. And Aaron Welt’s paper explores the origins of labor racketeering among Yiddish-speaking immigrant workers. That movement reflected working-class political and economic ideologies that countered bourgeois reformist and statist interventions into New York’s industry and urban life.
Through these cases, the panel interrogates the contradictory impulses of the Progressive Movement: urban Progressives had recourse to the power of public authority and bureaucracy, which they used to try to preserve the fundamentals of capitalism and, at the same time, freedom and democracy. In the interspace created by these cross currents, various actors found opportunities in Progressive Era New York to extend their interests, influences, and ambitions in the urban public sphere.
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