Rebel Imaginaries

Labor, Culture, and Politics in Depression-Era California

Rebel Imaginaries

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: December 2020

American Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, History > U.S. History

Amid the global catastrophe of the Great Depression, California became a wellspring for some of the era's most inventive and imaginative political movements. As devastation deepened, the multiracial laboring populations who formed the basis of California's economy gave rise to an oppositional culture that challenged the modes of racialism, nationalism, and rationalism that guided modernization during preceding decades. In Rebel Imaginaries Elizabeth E. Sine tells the story of that oppositional culture's emergence, revealing how aggrieved Californians asserted political visions that embraced difference, fostered a sense of shared vulnerability, and underscored the interconnectedness and interdependence of global struggles for human dignity. From the Imperial Valley's agricultural fields to Hollywood, seemingly disparate communities of African American, Native American, Mexican, Filipinx, Asian, and White working-class people were linked by their myriad struggles against Depression-era capitalism and patterns of inequality and marginalization. In tracing the diverse coalition of those involved in labor strikes, citizenship and immigration reform, and articulating and imagining freedom through artistic practice, Sine demonstrates that the era's social movements were far more heterogeneous, multivalent, and contested than previously understood.


“A beautifully written and generative book, Rebel Imaginaries provides a new model for doing labor history by embracing the intersectional qualities of working-class life and refusing to relegate economics, social movement mobilization, expressive culture, and electoral politics to hermetically sealed autonomous realms. This landmark work in ethnic studies is certain to exert powerful influence and impact in the years to come.” — George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place

“Provocatively arguing that the post-1935 years of the New Deal's reforms in some ways undermined the promise of the social movements that made it possible, Elizabeth E. Sine makes an exciting contribution from which scholars in American studies, ethnic studies, and US history will learn a great deal. Compact and engaging, Rebel Imaginaries will also be of interest to lay readers, organizers, and those in social movements, for whom it holds lessons.” — David R. Roediger, author of Class, Race, and Marxism


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elizabeth E. Sine is Lecturer of History at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and coeditor of Another University is Possible.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Table of Contents Forthcoming
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1137-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1032-6