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).