AHA Member Spotlight: Aimee Loiselle
Aimee Loiselle is an assistant professor of history at Central Connecticut State University. She lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, and has been a member since 2016.
Alma maters: BA, Dartmouth College, 1992; MA, University of Vermont, 1998; PhD, University of Connecticut, 2019
Fields of interest: modern US, labor and working class, women and gender, global capitalism and migrations, popular culture
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I worked with pregnant-parenting adolescent girls in a GED program and developed Next Steps to prepare students for college. That led to designing and teaching a Transition to College program for nontraditional and underrepresented students. Their determination pushed me to try for my PhD.
During these years, I became close friends with several Boricua and Black colleagues. When I mentioned to Puerto Rican friends that I was researching the 1979 movie Norma Rae and southern women in textiles and garments, they said their mothers had worked in northeastern factories in the 1970s. I began researching southern and Puerto Rican women as interconnected workers in labor markets segmented by race and colonialism. The women also organized in unions and entered cultural politics to contest the narrative of the American working class.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
The family restaurants in Springfield that offer Jamaican, Turkish, German, Vietnamese, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Puerto Rican, Laotian, and Ecuadoran food. I also love the Quadrangle Museums.
I appreciate the collegiality and size of the CCSU History Department. It encompasses a range of project modes as well as topics and time periods. As a former adjunct, I like that it provides a central area with desks and computers for adjunct faculty, and they are invited to events.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am working on my first book, Creating Norma Rae: Cultural Contests over the American Working Class, 1970s–1980s, under contract with the University of North Carolina Press. It centers Norma Rae to demonstrate how the larger society, through capitalist means of cultural production, erases diverse women workers; reconstructs narratives of labor that are infused with the notion of an American working class that is white and industrial; and fuels the neoliberal political economy.
I am also starting my second book, a history of workers in the global hip-hop fashion company Baby Phat.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
I completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Reproductive Justice History Project at Smith College and became interested in this movement built by women of color and low-income women for bodily autonomy, full access to medical care, and the right to not have or have children in healthy environs. The project illuminated possibilities for bringing together scholarship, activism, and popular education—even more important since Dobbs v. Jackson.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
In El Centro at Hunter College-CUNY, I found Nosotras Trabajamos en la Costura, a public history project that included oral histories, posters, and a bilingual radio show from and about Puerto Rican needleworkers.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
Salt of the Earth (1954), movie
A History of Domestic Work and Worker Organizing, digital humanities
What do you value most about the history discipline?
I was drawn to history because it is interdisciplinary. It pushes us to think about how different aspects of humanity and societies interact in ways that are not immediately clear nor inevitable, but are not random.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
AHA membership is critical because it advocates for K–12 and higher education funding. This funding is necessary to sustain and improve the field and to provide the history knowledge and analytical skills necessary for a democratic republic. Membership is also important as a means to promote academic job security for doing research and acquisitions, publishing, and speaking.
Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?
The annual meeting is vital for connecting to historians at all levels and ages. I taught in a public high school, GED program, community college, liberal arts college, and state university. Historians at these institutions, and more at museums and historical societies, need to gather to share expertise and moral support. I appreciate the space to raise questions and disagree in ways that enrich the field.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Attribution must provide author name, article title, Perspectives on History, date of publication, and a link to this page. This license applies only to the article, not to text or images used here by permission.
Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.