Narratives Serially Constructed and Lived: Ethnicity in Cross-Gender Strikes 1887-1903
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DeVault, Ileen A.
[Excerpt] The strikes narrated in this paper have illustrated different ways in which individuals' recognition of ethnic identity could interact with their recognition of gender and class identities. In each strike workers' identities developed along with the serial narrative of the particular strike situation. The use of Sartre's concept of the series helps us think about the many possible variations of class, ethnicity, and gender. Though Sartre planned to use his concept of series as a way to examine peoples' class identities, my employment of the concept broadens it to include other categories of identification as well. Using the concept this broadly highlights the importance of three key issues: historical narrative, historical materialism, and the agency of individuals and groups within both of those. In each of the strikes retold here, individuals act out of identities formed by both specific material circumstances and specific events. By thinking of these identities as representative of memberships in different series we keep alive the possibilities of change inherent in individuals' lives. Each individual has at her disposal an array of experiences from which she can and must construct her own responses to the events in which she finds herself. Thinking of these experiences as the formative materials of membership in different series aids the historian in thinking about class, gender, ethnicity, race, and other categories less as one-time choices of identity made by individuals and more as part of an array of choices out of which individuals act.
gender; strikes; labor movement; ethnicity; series
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