Edna M. Bonacich
My work has focused on race and labor. I have studied and taught courses on social inequality and the efforts to counter it. I have examined the formation of trade unions. I have focused on race and racism, examining its origins in European imperialism, and the construction of labor regimes (including New World slavery), which have divided white workers from workers of color. I wrote a widely cited series of articles on “the split labor market,” which examined racial division in the working class. I have been concerned with efforts by workers of color to combat the super-exploitation of their employers, as well as the discrimination and hostility of white workers and their unions.
I have tried to link my work to social engagement, or what is now called “public Sociology.” I did not want my work to be only “academic,” but to be of relevance to actors who are working towards greater social justice and equality. One set of work deals with the garment industry in Los Angeles and the Pacific Rim, trying to expose the sweatshop conditions in much of the industry. A more recent concern has been global manufacturing, and the logistic industry that it has spawned. Race and class oppression and inequality are found in different sectors of this industry, too.
I am currently working on a 4-pronged project, all related to Urban Agriculture. The four prongs are: personal, political, intellectual, and policy. Personally I am now satisfying rowing most of our household vegetable needs by growing in our back yard. Politically I have helped to develop the Ujima Farming Project, aimed at developing food growing in the African American community of South Los Angeles. Intellectually I am working with a group on a book on Black farming in Los Angeles. And for policy, I am helping to chair a Working Group of the LA Food Policy Council, which aims to make LA a center for urban agriculture.
While the study of food production is a completely new topic for me, inequality based on race and class is not. However, my new work is placed within a framework that I have not given full attention to before, namely the ecological crisis that threatens the future of our planet. I believe that this situation is so pressing that it demands that we all consider ways of searching for solutions. The current projects are a modest effort to do that, while continuing to address social justice issues regarding race and class.
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