Anticipating the retirement of Michael Zweig this summer, the Center for the Study
of Working Class Life (CSWCL) he founded at Stony Brook in 1999 has been undergoing
a transition. The changeover of leadership started with the formation of an interdisciplinary
steering committee a couple of years ago. It culminated this summer with Christopher
Sellers taking over as Center director, and Robert Chase and Lori Flores as Deputy
Directors, also with a switch in its official departmental location from Economics
to History (all three of us are historians).
In the interest of stirring broader interest and engagement among faculty, we’ve also
recast the Center’s title and mission, orienting these around the “study of inequality
and social justice.” While working class studies and labor-related questions remain
at the heart of the Initiative ’s agenda, we feel this change captures the growing
richness of scholarly as well activist thought on display at Stony Brook University
in 2016. Our hope is also to widen scholarly as well administrative support for this
initiative, in order to sustain its work. By highlighting inequality and social justice
more generally, we aim to turn this initiative into a prominent regional and national
forum for an expanding array of related interdisciplinary and community-engaged projects
led by Stony Brook faculty.
We have laid our five thematic clusters that capture the interests and expertise of
participating faculty in Labor and Class Studies, Carceral Studies, Environmental
Justice Studies, Immigration and Mobility Studies, and Race and Social Justice Studies.
After an initial year or so of setup, our current idea is to rotate our focus and
emphasis between these themes, so that leadership also switches between different
clusters of faculty. Every two to three years, we will provide a vibrant agenda of
activities addressing each of the themes, both on campus and in the surrounding community.
We plan to remain open, as well, to further clusters of themes and projects faculty
may propose (e.g., LGBTQ studies; Native American/First Nation Studies).