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Class UnknownUndercover Investigations of American Work and Poverty from the Progressive Era to the Present$
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Mark Pittenger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814767405

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814767405.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Class Unknown

Mark Pittenger

NYU Press

This book explores how writers' perspectives on class, labor, and working-class people shifted in concert with particular historical contexts by tracking the tradition of undercover investigation from its Progressive Era origins and proliferation through a sequence of distinctive stages. In particular, it looks at a “New Era” of postwar labor militancy and 1920s industrial psychology, personnel management, and romantic vagabondage; defeats and struggles during the Great Depression; and renegotiations of gender and national identity in a reborn industrial economy during the war. It also considers postwar affluence and how it was affected by Cold War fears of communism, the increasing prominence accorded to race in social thought and public discourse during the rise of the civil rights movement in the later 1940s and 1950s, and John Howard Griffin's undercover classic Black Like Me. Finally, it examines the undercover tradition's persistence in postmodern America, when the very definitions of borders and identities became the subject of constant reevaluation.

Keywords:   writers, labor, working class, undercover investigation, labor militancy, national identity, communism, civil rights movement, John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me

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