Photography and the Histories of Working Peoples and Laboring Lives
Issue number 132 (October 2018)
Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2017
Issue editors: Kevin Coleman, Jayeeta Sharma, and Daniel James

This issue explores the potential of photography as a medium that enables new and radical approaches to historicizing the study of labor, laboring lives, and working peoples, locally, transnationally, and globally. It seeks to showcase methodologically generative research that builds upon the recent boom in theoretical work in the fields of visual cultural studies and photography, and how insights from these fields can be harnessed to reinvigorate historical studies of working lives and ordinary people.

Even as photographs form part of a larger visual field that conditions what can be seen, said, and done in any given historical conjuncture, they create alternate possibilities for contestation or cultural assertion. Since its advent in the 1839, photography offered the possibility to simultaneously turn images of workers into objects of consumption even as it allowed their otherwise obscured histories to be recorded and disseminated. With the medium’s global circulation in the wake of capital and empire, working people worldwide were subjected to the disciplinary gaze of employers, overseers, and officials, and to touristic voyeurism. But increasingly, photography provided novel opportunities for ordinary people to represent themselves, and for others to join them in solidarity, as the technology morphed from inexpensive Kodak Brownie cameras and Polaroids to sophisticated camera-phones.

This issue asks:

  • What new insights for historians and the historical discipline do past and present photographs of working peoples and laboring lives enable?
  • How might photography act as an archive, a tool, and an interlocutor, whether by itself or through interactions with other forms of media?
  • What might such a visual archive offer for historicizing work and ordinary lives that text-based and other archival materials cannot?
  • How have workers historically negotiated the objectifying nature of photography and sought to redress power imbalances? How might this have differed for workers in different social positions, and over space and time?
  • What radical historical possibilities have emerged when working people, marginalized groups, and laboring movements pictured themselves? How have changing technologies and access to photography had an impact?
  • How have photographs, as material objects and conveyors of meaning, served to strengthen or weaken affective ties between workers, families, bosses, and the general public?
  • In what ways is photography itself a form of labor? What are the raced, classed, and gendered implications of this form of labor
  • How might the recent proliferation and dissemination of popularly produced images and self-authored images encourage the production of new radical and laboring histories?

The editors invite submissions from scholars working on any period and world region/s. We are especially interested in methodologically generative studies that draw upon photographic archives of working peoples and build upon the recent boom in theoretical work in visual culture studies and photography. Preliminary inquiries can be sent to the editors Kevin Coleman <>, Jayeeta Sharma <>, and Daniel James.

Each issue of RHR publishes material in a variety of forms. Potential contributors are encouraged to look at recent issues for examples of both conventional and non-conventional forms of scholarship. We are especially interested in submissions that use images as well as texts and encourage materials with strong visual content. In addition to monographic articles based on archival research, we encourage non-traditional contributions such as photo essays, film and book review essays, interviews, brief interventions, “conversations” between scholars and/or activists, as well as teaching notes and annotated course syllabi for our various departments that include:

  • Historians at Work (reflective essays by practitioners in academic and non-academic settings that engage with questions of professional practice)
  • Teaching Radical History (syllabi and commentary on teaching)
  • Public History (essays on historical commemoration and the politics of the past)
  • Interviews (proposals for interviews with scholars, activists, and others)
  • (Re)Views (review essays on history in all media–print, film, and digital)

Procedures for submission of articles: At this time we are requesting abstracts that are no longer than 400 words; these are due by February 2017 and should be submitted electronically as an attachment to <> with “Issue 132 submission” in the subject line. By March 2017, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version to undergo the peer-review process. The due date for completed drafts is July 2017. An invitation to submit a full article or essay does not guarantee publication; publication depends on the peer-review process and the overall shape the journal issue will take.

Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to send high-resolution image files (jpg or tif files at a minimum of 300 dpi), and secure written permission to reprint all images. Authors must also secure permissions for sound clips that they may wish to include with their articles and essays in the online version of the journal. Articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in Issue 132 of Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in October 2018.

Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2017

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