Josiah Rector, recent History Ph.D., wins Urban History Association's Michael B. Katz Best Dissertation in Urban History award
The Urban History Association has awarded History alum Josiah Rector (PhD December 2016) the Michael B. Katz award for the Best Dissertation in Urban History for his dissertation, "Accumulating Risk: Environmental Justice and the History of Capitalism in Detroit, 1880-2015." He will receive his award at the 2018 Bi-Annual Conference of the Urban History Association. Joe Rector is Hulings Assistant Professor of U.S. and Environmental History and Culture at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. The citation for his dissertation reads:
Accumulating Risk by Josiah Rector brings together environmental history, the history of capitalism, and the history of race, class, and gender inequalities to show how Detroit’s economic transformation has concentrated environmental risk in poor urban neighborhoods. Rector expertly investigates large structures like capitalism, deindustrialization, and neoliberalism while also focusing the lens on human actors like regulators, business leaders, public officials, workers, union leaders, and city residents. His extensive research blends materials from the national archives with local collections in Michigan, oral history interviews and government reports, to create a rich and compelling narrative. While many urban histories of Detroit focus on the post war period, this dissertation extends the traditional periodization by locating the origins of Detroit’s environmental crisis in the late nineteenth century. Nonetheless, the work is of current relevance, with immediate implications for our contemporary crises in the wake of the subprime mortgage meltdown, the lingering economic emergency in Detroit, and the poisoned water in Detroit and Flint. Rector doesn't shy away from weighing in, using historical perspective, on current proposals for how to solve these crises in Detroit. This dissertation shows the importance of historical research and historical imagination when trying to understand our current economic and environmental problems.