Concentration: Modern Britain
Advisor: Patrick McDevitt
My dissertation is an exploration of several different ways the English working class used direct action methods to solve many of their contemporary crises over the period ca. 1968-1990. The broad chapter topics are: tenants’ associations and squatting as a way to address the ever-present housing crisis; the formation of Claimants’ Unions to advocate on behalf of the many Britons who were not served by the welfare state either though governmental neglect or ignorance of their rights; the creation of refuges for battered wives to escape abusive relationships and establish their own households; and the formation of community organizations in native and immigrant black and Asian neighborhoods to demand equal access to societal benefits as well as to defend against a hostile culture, racist violence, and harassment from the police. My driving argument is that direct action at the community level was more effective at solving the problems of each community than the local or central authorities. In addition, grass-roots direct action counters the historiographical and theoretical narratives of British decline during this period as well as citizens’ dependency on either the state or the market.
2016-2017 Public Humanities Fellow at SUNY Buffalo Institute of Humanities
Project Title: “Life on a Nickel’s Edge: Struggle and Dignity in Buffalo’s Poor Communities”