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Labor on Display: Ford Factory Tours and the Romance of Globalized Deindustrialization.

By Wendy Lynnette Michael

Abstract

This dissertation examines twentieth and early twenty-first century American industry’s use of factory tours and exhibitions to construct the U.S. as a postindustrial nation, to frame labor as resistant to forward progress, to celebrate deindustrialization as the ultimate form of progress, to portray labor as always robust and immune to the consequences of deindustrialization at the very moment that it restructured production processes in the United States and the world at a very high cost to American labor. Drawing on scholarship in American studies, Museum studies and Labor studies, it analyzes the representation of labor by American corporations, such as Ford Motor Company, at World’s Fair exhibitions and on factory tours. Scholarship on World’s Fairs, Museum displays, and factory tours interrogate the representation of race and gender in public exhibitions, however there is little work scrutinizing labor in these settings. An examination of the Ford Rotunda exhibit at the widely attended and wildly successful 1934 Chicago World Fair introduces the first case, where the deeply loved exhibit made a dramatic argument for technology as the solution to national and personal economic crises by representing industrial technology as glorious and labor as secondary. Ford worked to produce meanings to fashion a particular vision of progress that obscured labor and the specific tensions in employer/labor relationships. Inspired by the success of the fair, Ford Motor Company brought the Rotunda from the fair in 1936, dramatically redesigned and expanded its exhibits with visions of global Ford, adding tours of the River Rouge Industrial Complex. The Rotunda and tour emphasized traditional values and a doctrine of mass production as a beginning of the articulation of the logics that support deindustrialization and globalization. In 2004, Ford Motor Company reinvented the Rouge factory tour in response to an acceleration of manufacturing jobs out of the United States with another celebration of technology that obscures deindustrialization, globalization and the disappearance of the laboring body it puts on display in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of globalization previous exhibits loudly declared

Topics: Deindustrialization, Globalization, Labor, World's Fairs, Exhibitions, and Factory Tours, Postindustrialism and Neoliberalism, Technology
OAI identifier: oai:deepblue.lib.umich.edu:2027.42/108948

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