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Fure-Slocum finishes book, receives grant for next project

By Bradley West '13
December 20, 2012

Before he began teaching at St. Olaf College, Visiting Assistant Professor of History Eric Fure-Slocum '79 worked as a community organizer in Minnesota and California. Although he has since moved from activism to academics, a focus on politics at the grassroots level still informs Fure-Slocum's scholarship and teaching.

This interest in politics helped shape his new book, Contesting the Postwar City: Working-Class and Growth Politics in 1940s Milwaukee, which will be available from Cambridge University Press this summer.

Having sent the finished manuscript to his publisher, Fure-Slocum is now doing research for his next book, tentatively titled Losing Hope: Workers' Disengagement and Political Cynicism in Metropolitan America. He received a faculty development grant from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and the University of Chicago to fund part of this research.

The grant allows Fure-Slocum to spend a week delving into the archives and special collections at the University of Chicago. These collections include some resources that will prove vital to his latest project: namely, the papers of organizations and people who were writing and worrying about civic engagement in the 1940s and '50s. While he's in Chicago, Fure-Slocum also plans to meet with other scholars exploring similar questions regarding 20th-century political history.

The recently completed book on Milwaukee examines several areas and topics that continue to fascinate Fure-Slocum, including urban and labor history, as well as the history of political culture in the United States. Focusing specifically on the history of Milwaukee allowed him to make sense of some broad and dynamic shifts in American political discourse.

"My book explores two important strands of politics that were in tension in the middle of the 20th century: working-class politics and growth politics," Fure-Slocum explains. "I look at several different topics that capture this conflict, including housing, redevelopment, petty gambling, labor relations, and public financing."

Although these topics within mid-century political history are very interesting on their own, Fure-Slocum also believes that they can help people better understand the current political culture of the United States.

"It is important to understand these periods for their own sake, but they also show contemporary neoliberal policies taking shape in the mid-century contest between working class and growth politics," Fure-Slocum says. "Changes in industrial cities set the path toward the world as we know it today, and still shape our styles of political participation."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or vanderve@stolaf.edu.