New Book by SLSA Founding Member Jacob Remes

9780252081378-2SLSA founding member Jacob Remes’s new book, Disaster Citizenship: Survivors, Solidarity and Power in the Progressive Era is now available from the University of Illinois Press. Historian James Green praised the book as having “advanced and perfected the kind of deep social history pioneered by Herbert Gutman and Linda Gordon,” while James C. Scott describes the book as “[m]eticulously researched, gripping, and important.”

In its description of the book, the University of Illinois Press notes, “A century ago, governments buoyed by Progressive Era–beliefs began to assume greater responsibility for protecting and rescuing citizens. Yet the aftermath of two disasters in the United States–Canada borderlands–the Salem Fire of 1914 and the Halifax Explosion of 1917–saw working class survivors instead turn to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members for succor and aid. Both official and unofficial responses, meanwhile, showed how the United States and Canada were linked by experts, workers, and money. In Disaster Citizenship, Jacob A. C. Remes draws on histories of the Salem and Halifax events to explore the institutions–both formal and informal–that ordinary people relied upon in times of crisis. He explores patterns and traditions of self-help, informal order, and solidarity and details how people adapted these traditions when necessary. Yet, as he shows, these methods–though often quick and effective–remained illegible to reformers. Indeed, soldiers, social workers, and reformers wielding extraordinary emergency powers challenged these grassroots practices to impose progressive ‘solutions’ on what they wrongly imagined to be a fractured social landscape.”

Jacob Remes is an assistant professor of public affairs and history at SUNY Empire State College. He studies the working-class and labor history of North America, with a focus on urban disasters, working-class organizations, and migration. His book, Disaster Citizenship: Relief, Solidarity, and Power in the Progressive Era (University of Illinois Press, 2015), examines the overlapping responses of individuals, families, civil society, and the state to the Salem, Mass., Fire of 1914, and the Halifax, N.S., Explosion of 1917. His historical work informs and inspires contemporary interests in the labor movement, urban affairs, and disaster response, and his popular writing has appeared in The NationSalon, the News and ObserverAlternet, and Truth-Out. Remes is a founding member of SLSA and the Labor Research Action Network, and has served twice as executive secretary of the Labor and Working-Class History Association. He has received awards from the Canadian Committee on Labour History, the Labor and Working-Class History Association, Duke University, and Yale University, and I has been the William Lyon Mackenize King Research Fellow at Harvard, a Josephine de Karman Fellow, a University Scholar at Duke, a Kenan Center for Ethics Graduate Colloquium Fellow, and an American Council of Learned Societies/Andrew W. Mellon Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellow. Remes received his PhD and M.A. in history from Duke University and his B.A. from Yale.

Remes discussed the book on a recent episode of Working History. Listen here: