Diana Enriquez, Department of Sociology
When we talk about freelancers, are they more like CEOs of small businesses or are they pulling together income from various projects as temporary employees of their clients? How do freelancers navigate the financial instability that comes from uncertain work schedules? For whom is freelancing a choice and for whom is this extra work a necessary step towards financial stability? These questions are important as we study the growing segment of the U.S. labor force that participates in “alternative work.” To answer these questions, Diana spent the summer interviewing American freelancers in technology, design, media, marketing, and entertainment learn about the ways that freelancers set their prices, learn to negotiate their contracts, and strategize their businesses. Now she is comparing the professional experiences of her freelancers to trends in the workforce more broadly, to compare full-time freelancers, part-time freelancers, and the workers who take occasional freelance work, to better understand who chooses to freelance and who finds themselves freelancing as a way to survive in an increasingly challenging labor market.
Sean Fraga, Department of History
In “The Pacific Railroads and the Pacific Ocean: A Reassessment,” Sean Fraga argues that the American transcontinental railroads are best understood in global terms. Contemporary scholars typically describe the transcontinental railroads as instruments of American westward expansion and national incorporation. But the goal of capturing trade with Asia structured these railroads’ planning, construction, and operations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This paper recovers the excitement many 19th-century white Americans felt about trade with Asia and shows how interest in Asian trade was woven into the transcontinental railroads from their very beginnings. These railroads created new links in an emergent worldwide commercial network of steam-powered rail and ship connections. But by the turn of the 20th century, these railroads, which had hoped to profit by importing Asian commodities, instead found it more lucrative to export American goods to industrializing Asian countries and to support American imperialism in the Pacific World.