Floating Friday Lecture with Speaker Jessica Welburn

Friday, February 17, 2017 - 4:00pm
704 Jefferson Building

The Department of American Studies invites you to attend next week’s Floating Friday lecture, “Managing Public Sector Contraction: The Experiences of Working Class and Middle Class African Americans in Detroit,” which begins at 4:00 Friday, February 17, 2017 in 704 Jefferson Building. The speaker is Jessica Welburn, Assistant Professor, Departments of African American Studies and Sociology at The University of Iowa.



This research explores how working class and middle class African Americans in Detroit, MI navigate the collapse of the city’s public infrastructure, how they explain factors that contributed to the city’s decline, and how they think more generally about obstacles facing African Americans. Drawing upon 70 in-depth interviews, I find that both working class and middle class residents devote considerable energy to filling gaps in the public infrastructure including limited policing and a failing public schools. Respondents’ generally believe that better government services and programs are needed to improve the circumstances of Detroiters. Yet, they also believe that high levels of political corruption—particularly among African American politicians—contributed to the city’s problems. Many also believe that African Americans should take more personal responsibility for their circumstances in order to improve their outcomes. I argue that findings demonstrate how neoliberalism may contribute not only to the contraction of the public sector, but also to the individualization of risk.



Jessica Welburn is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. Her research focuses on the experiences of African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era, including responses to racism and discrimination, social mobility and urban inequality. She is currently working on a book exploring the circumstances of working class and middle class African Americans in Detroit. She is also co-author of the 2016 book Getting Respect (Princeton University Press), which explores how African Americans, Afro Brazilians, Ethiopian Jews, Mizrahi Jews and Arab Israelis navigate racism and discrimination.


Anyone needing an accommodation to attend these events please call (319) 335-0320.