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M.E. John Seminar Series: Jennifer M. Silva, Bucknell

A historically Democratic-leaning swing state, Pennsylvania played a deciding role in the victory of President Donald Trump in November 2016, with high levels of support streaming from depressed rural areas of the state. Through over 100 in-depth interviews with working-class residents of a declining coal town in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I trace how working-class people construct narratives that make connections between economic decline, emotional despair, and political realignment. I demonstrate how individual strategies for managing suffering organize the working-class self in ways that justify disengagement from conventional politics. I argue that the lens of pain management also explains the emergence of political views that seem to conflict with each other (e.g., why people can depend on a social safety net while also rejecting it).  Jennifer M. Silva is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University. She earned a PhD from the University of Virginia and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. Her book, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty (Oxford, 2013) examines the transition to adulthood for working-class youth. Coming Up Short was awarded Honorable Mention for the William J. Goode Book Award in 2015 and Honorable Mention for the Mirra Komarovsky Book Award in 2014.  It was also named one of six “Best of 2013 in Social Mobility Research” books selected by the Brookings Institute. Silva’s scholarship has appeared in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, the Journal of Consumer Research, and the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Her research has been covered by The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Atlantic, Boston Review, the BBC’s World Inquiry Programme, and NPR’s On Point. Silva is currently working on a book about working-class politics in the anthracite coal region of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

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October 13, 2017, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

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