I’ve always been interested in politics and inequality in the United States. Since my undergrad days at the University of Michigan, those interests have taken on a spatial cast, as I came to appreciate how race, class, and access are arranged across cities and suburbs, most often in systematic ways orchestrated in large part by public policy. I’ve continued to pursue these interests as a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where I work with Tom Sugrue and Michael Katz. In 2013-14 I was the Penn Urban Studies Graduate Fellow, an opportunity which connected me with other scholars of urban and metropolitan issues across disciplines. I’m now finishing up my dissertation (which I’ll defend in the fall) and teaching in the undergraduate Urban Studies program.
My dissertation, “The Real Silent Majority: Denver and the Realignment of American Politics after the Sixties” grows out of these interests. Focusing on metropolitan Denver, it traces the emergence of a pragmatic,trans-partisan grassroots political sensibility from the late-1960s onwards that was overwhelmingly moderate, committed to personal choice and privacy, and organized around the mantra of “quality of life.” I then go a step further to show how this evolving grassroots politics got translated into formal politics, particularly through the Democratic Party. My story culminates in the election of Bill Clinton and the success of the Republican Contract with America, two seemingly polarized events that, I argue, were in fact both attempts to capture this volatile and rapidly expanding political center.
Before coming to grad school, I worked as a production and editorial assistant at National Public Radio in Washington and at WBUR, the Boston member station. While I hope that some of the investigative reporting and storytelling skills I developed as a journalist have carried over to my work as a historian, these days it’s rare that I get to make use of my audio production chops. That’s why I’m excited to be joining the Urban History podcast! It’s a great chance to bring together two of my very favorite things: history and radio. For the most part, I’ll be the one behind the scenes, cutting tape and making things flow. If I do my job right, you won’t even know I’m there.
In the latest episode of the Urban History Association Podcast, Andrew Needham and Lily Geismer talk to historian David Huyssen about his new book, Progressive Inequality: Rich and Poor in New York, 1890-1920. (HUP, Amazon, Powell’s). Huyssen (pronounced “HYOO-sen”) questions the notion of the Progressive Era as one inherently defined by progress. In a book featuring the messy specifics of individual lives, he examines points of interaction between people of different classes in New York. In the interview, he ultimately concludes inequality is a choice that society makes.
You can stream from this site or follow the link and download the mp3. Follow the jump for notes on the interview.