Graduate Salon: Richard Anderson, Henry Cowles, and Sara Marcus

Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 12:00 pm

Richard Anderson

My project examines the postindustrial transformation of Chicago’s political economy and urban landscape between the mid-1950s and early 1980s. Drawing on a range of archival sources — including the papers of former Mayor Richard J. Daley, municipal records, and the collections of various civic and neighborhood organizations — I will examine how the Daley Machine responded to local manifestations of national trends like factory flight, internal migration, and the African American freedom struggle. I hope to demonstrate that Daley’s Democratic machine — so often portrayed as the quintessence of parochial, ward-heeler politics — established the physical infrastructure and ideological foundation for Chicago to become a neoliberal “global city” of specialized corporate services, high-tech industries, medical research and education, and entertainment and tourism. I will track both top-down and bottom-up vectors of power — asking how businesses, public institutions, civic groups, labor unions, neighborhood associations, and radical activists alternately acquiesced to and challenged the Daley Machine’s prescription for the maladies of deindustrialization and racial conflict. The consequences of these seismic economic and social changes impacted the city unevenly across race and class; however, I will argue that Chicago’s cosmopolitan, white-collar, gentrified districts and its underserved, politically isolated, peripheral spaces were mutually constitutive.

Henry Cowles

My dissertation, “A Method Only: The Evolving Meaning of Science in the United States, 1859-1929,” argues that the rise of the human sciences in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era precipitated a shift in the understanding of science itself. I show how, just as evolutionary theory was brought to bear on questions of human nature, the scientific process came to be seen as both a product of human evolution and a process analogous to natural selection. This view, I argue, helped naturalize the emerging “experimental ideal” and paved the way for a new, instrumental understanding of science and its method that gained extraordinary power across the twentieth century. Based in archives in both England and the United States, my work shows how science became human — and how, just as quickly, it came to be seen as beyond the grasp of all but a chosen few.

Sara Marcus

My project investigates literary and sonic traces of political disappointment in the United States between 1929 and 1989. I use the term “political disappointment” to refer to untimely political desire that is felt beyond the political time that gave rise to it, and persisting through those moments when the way forward, indeed the very viability of “forward,” is a matter of doubt. The extensive archives of the fiction writer Tillie Olsen and the poet Adrienne Rich offer two distinct case studies. The two writers were close friends for years, but whereas Rich continued to actively support and write about radical feminism after the flush of that movement’s initial emergence, Olsen’s fitful career from the ’60s onward registers the difficulties that characterized Depression-era working-class organizing’s fraught afterlife. By analyzing the work of Olsen, Rich, and other mid-century figures, and by tuning in to the soundscape of the birth of Black Power, my project examines how political disappointment has shaped aesthetic production, and how attention to disappointment’s traces can change our conceptions of what kinds of literature and sound count as political.