Pioneer on ‘whiteness’ joins USC History Center
Roediger is the Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Illinois. His 1991 book, “The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class,” sparked international debate and launched a field of study, spurring more than 500 publications to date that address the concept of whiteness.
A winner of the Merle Curti Prize for U.S. Social History, Roediger also is the author of “Our Own Time,” “Toward the Abolition of Whiteness,” “How Race Survived U.S. History,” “Colored White” and “Working Toward Whiteness.”
David Crockett, an associate professor of marketing at USC, said Roediger’s work has had a tremendous impact on his research.
“Professor Roediger's work has been deeply influential for my research,” said Crockett. “My research looks at issues of social inequality as they happen in the marketplace, especially racial inequality. His research places many of the race and ethnic conflicts that we see happening today in historical context.”
Crockett, who was an undergraduate at the University of Missouri-Columbia when Roediger was teaching there in the late 1980s, encourages students and others to attend Roediger’s speaking events at USC.
“His insightful work puts truth to the lie that our present moment is given, rather than arrived at through a series of choices that might have been made differently,” said Crockett. “He demonstrates that racial identities were constructed out of thin air to reinforce relations of domination by processes that were at times invisible and at other times extremely violent. Anyone reading his work or hearing him speak will see that a different past was always possible, and by extension, a different future is as well.”
Kathy Forde, an associate professor of journalism who teaches media and civil rights history, said her students will benefit from Roediger’s teaching.
"Professor Roediger's teaching will help students develop a more sophisticated understanding of how race emerged as a social construct in American history, a construct that shaped not only black but also white class identities and, indeed, the social order of the country,” Forde said. “Our students have much to gain from learning this history. Understanding the past can help us better understand and perhaps even solve our present problems. These include structural racism in our country's educational and prison systems."
In addition to teaching a graduate seminar, Roediger will give a public lecture Feb. 6 and participate in a workshop on whiteness March 23.
USC's College of Arts and Sciences launched its History Center in 2010 to offer programming and academic activities that highlight an annual theme for the public, scholars and students. This year’s theme is constructing categories. USC’s history center is one of three in the Southeast. Others are at the University of Texas and the University of Tennessee.
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