My dissertation, “The City That Worked: Machine Politics and Urban Liberalism in Chicago, 1945-1969,” examines public administration and electoral politics in the archetypal Democratic city to trace the arc of urban liberalism in the postwar United States. While many observers, at the time and since, allude to “Chicago politics” or “the Democratic machine,” few have investigated just how the machine system worked or how it came to be. My dissertation explores the means and motives of the Cook County Democratic Organization led by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the most resilient urban machine in the United States and a bulwark of the national Democratic Party. Popular memory of the Chicago machine remains fixated on the late 1960s, when political repression and public corruption discredited the Daley administration. Yet by recovering an earlier period when Daley represented the apogee of postwar liberal governance, my project recasts our understanding of urban machine politics and modern liberalism itself. Moving beyond the rigid distinctions scholars have drawn between conservatism and liberalism in the United States, my project argues that postwar liberalism was much more protean. The Democratic machine under Daley represented multiple liberalisms. At heart, the history of machine politics in Chicago challenges narratives of “liberal decline” and “conservative ascendency” that have dominated the literature on 20th century U.S. political history. I demonstrate that progressive and reactionary tendencies co-existed within American liberalism throughout the postwar era.
How do ordinary people in the United States interact with and shape science and politics in their most intimate familial moments? When expectant parents in the contemporary United States decide where and how to give birth, private decisions are placed on public terrain. Birth and early parenthood constitute a brief — yet widespread — moment of encounter and sometimes conflict between family, state, and medical and scientific institutions. My research examines the practices of parents and care providers in the contemporary natural birth community in the United States. I pay particular attention to questions of political subjectivity, online communities and the place of machines and technology in natural birth, and care providers’ and parents’ engagement with scientific and social scientific knowledge.