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Workshop: Labor Schools and Settlement Houses

Nov 22, 2018 - Nov 23, 2018
Organiser: HCTS Transcultural Forays
Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg (IWH)

Global Efforts to Overcome Economic Inequity in Japan, the Soviet Union, and the Anglosphere in the Interwar Period

The event is hosted by the International Academic Forum Heidelberg (IWH) and organized by Bruce Grover, Till Knaudt, Hans Martin Krämer, and Tanja Penter. It is financed by the HCTS Transcultural Forays initiative.

In the 1920s and 1930s, acute socio-economic dislocations produced by industrialization sparked significant social unrest and prompted an urgent search for solutions among state policy makers and social reformers in many industrializing countries. One prominent global response to the world-wide challenge of industrial poverty and inequity was the social education activism associated with the ‘settlement house’ and parallel movements. For progressives, the social education movement for the underclasses was an opportunity to grapple with how to empower workers and provide the agency to achieve independence from an economic and state system they saw as fundamentally exploitative of the underclasses. These progressive theorists argued that social education should not inculcate the values of the state or the bourgeois class but rather provide ‘scientific knowledge’ necessary to seize control of their own lives. This, it was believed, necessitated the ground-up building of a new culture suited to workers’ own needs and self-realization.

The independent workers’ education movement and its emphasis on not only practical skills but also culture, or the very attitudes and perceptions which underpinned social life, saw expression in several overlapping institutional approaches which spread across the industrializing world, including the settlement, labor education, and cooperative movements emerging throughout Europe, North America, and Japan. The settlement movement originated in Britain in the late nineteenth century to mitigate class disparities and spread globally, most notably to America and Japan, and ultimately developed in tandem with labor schools and other educational and cultural movements.

These institutional approaches were in turn impacted by emerging new ideals of social thought and action from across the industrializing world. New concepts and methods of social science spurred activists to systematically evaluate the actual conditions of the working poor and to grasp their subjective needs and aspirations. This confluence of ideas also provided a platform for the exploration of more radical views of social change. One example was the global impact of what was known as Proletkult, or proletarian culture, an early Soviet cultural and educational extension movement seeking to imagine a new culture for the oppressed working class. The British Plebs League, which promoted a Marxian program of labor education among its associated labor schools, was influenced by Proletkult. Through the conduit of the publications of British labor education theorists, the ideal of Proletkult also reached Japan, where it was creatively reformulated to suit the Japanese context by student activists at the Tokyo Imperial University Settlement House.

Our workshop will take up the specific object of the settlement houses to initiate a discussion of how the effort to achieve autonomy through independent social education was impacted by exposure to various global strands of thought on labor education, cooperatives, labor law, social planning and the broader labor movement. Through an analysis of how these globally entangled social movements were refracted through Japanese, Soviet, and Anglo-American cultures and their experiences of industrial modernity, we will work towards an understanding of how globally constructed understandings of society and social action impacted the development of social policy in a formative era of the emerging modern welfare state. Our end goal is to understand the cross-pollination and local implementation of complex and deeply intertwined global concepts as they were negotiated and reinvented in differing cultural settings.


Thursday, 22 November 2018

13.45–14.00   Welcome & Brief Introduction

Section 1: Challenges of Implementation
14.00–15.00   Sarah Badcock (University of Nottingham)
Popular Enlightenment Campaigns in 1917: Political Elites and ‘Ordinary’ People
15.15–16.15   Christopher Read (University of Warwick)
Proletkul’t and Prosveshchenie (Enlightenment): Developing a Strategy for Socialist Education
16.30–17.30   Fabian Tompsett (University of East London)
Whose Civilisation? Whose Education: The Contribution of Cedar and Eden Paul as Seen Through the “Workers' Dreadnought”
17.45–18.45   Bruce Grover (Heidelberg University)
The Tokyo Imperial University Labor School in Context: The Free University Movement, Proletkult, and New Culture in 1920s and 1930s Japan

Friday, 23 November 2018

Section 2: Legal Perspectives
  9.00–10.00   Aaron Retish (Wayne State University)
Cultural Education in Soviet Courts and Law
10.15–11.15   Kate Bradley (University of Kent)
Creating Legal Cultures? Citizenship, Class and the Poor Man's Lawyer in Interwar Britain
11.30–12.30   Colin Jones (Columbia University)
Does the Law Live? The Yanagishima Settlement and the Question of Legal Consciousness

Section 3: Cooperatives
13.30–14.30   Tom Woodin (University College London)
The Co-operative Movement and Education in Britain during the Interwar Period
14.45–15.45   Chris Perkins (University of Edinburgh)
Models of Participatory Worker Education in Prewar Japan: The Cooperative of the Tokyo Imperial University Settlement House

Concluding Discussion
16.00–17.00   Input: Laura Hein (Northwestern University)


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