Professor Pamela Brandwein’s Red Republicanism Wins a Michigan Humanities Award
By Adrian Shin
Feb 24, 2012
Red Republicanism marks an important turn in Brandwein’s research. While her previous work focused on issues of race, rights, and federalism as they shaped legislative debates and Supreme Court decision-making in nineteenth-century America, her work has not attended to the broader, transatlantic context of Civil War and Reconstruction politics. To elaborate on the impact of nineteenth-century European revolutions on “free labor” ideology and antislavery politics in America, her new project centers around the transatlantic reception of two pivotal events: the Revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871.
In the first instance, she asks how political upheavals in European capitals were understood by the antislavery movement, by Southern and other defenders of slavery, and by politicians alarmed at the specter of urban instability. In the second instance, she considers the impact of the short-lived Paris “workers’ government” on race and labor politics, at a time when the recently expanded powers of the national government were at a Reconstruction-era high.
Through the examination of these two European political upheavals and their uptake in the United States, Red Republicanism aims to counter presumptions of “exceptionalism” that thread through much of the scholarship on nineteenth century American political development. Brandwein’s goal is to demonstrate that an American political discourse of rights, republicanism, and state power was part and parcel of an intercontinental circulation of ideas, languages, and texts. Her title is drawn from the designation of the 1848 and 1871 uprisings as “red republicanism,” a pejorative if slippery term that circulated in both Europe and the United States. As many of the free labor demands of the nascent Republican Party were aligned with those of European, artisan-class revolutionaries, the title plays on the ambiguously revolutionary dimensions of free labor/antislavery reform in nineteenth century America.
While Brandwein has begun research into the Paris Commune and its transatlantic reception, Red Republicanism is still in its initial stages. The Michigan Humanities Award will allow Brandwein to launch fully into the American print coverage of the 1848 Revolutions and the Commune, and to expand her reading on the American labor movement.
Pamela Brandwein is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Northwestern University in 1994. She is the author of two books, Reconstructing Reconstruction (Duke University Press, 1999) and Rethinking the Judicial Settlement of Reconstruction (Cambridge University Press, 2011). The Michigan Humanities Award provides full salary and benefits for award winners during one academic term, while releasing them from teaching duties to help them engage fully in research in the humanities and interpretive social sciences.