Dr Thomas Jessen Adams

BA Tulane MA University of Chicago PhD University of Chicago
Lecturer in History and American Studies

A18 - Brennan MacCallum Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9036 7948

Website Phonebook Entry
The United States Studies Centre

Biographical details

After receiving my Ph.D. in U.S. History from the University of Chicago in 2009 I taught at Tulane University for 4 1/2 years before coming to Sydney in 2014.

I am a historian of American social, cultural, and political life with a particular interest in understanding how various kinds of inequality have been produced and at times overcome. To that end my research ranges across a variety of spatial and temporal contexts with particular foci on American labor and political economy and contentious politics and social movements with special attention to American cities as well as the U.S. South.

My most recently completed work is a book with my former colleague Matt Sakakeeny entitled Remaking New Orleans: Beyond Authenticity and Exceptionalism (Duke UP, 2018) which will be published to coincide with the city's 300th anniversary. This book argues that the ideological framing of the city of New Orleans by residents and outsiders alike provides a particularly telling example for scholars across the humanities and social sciences of how political and cultural attachment to concepts of authenticity and exceptionality frequently legitimate a variety of inequalities.

Other recent or soon to be published articles have tackled the ahistoricism and anti-politics of contemporary discourse on inequality as well as the rise of what scholars now frequently call "neoliberalism" in the crucible of anti-communist politics, urban development, and a variety of innovative legal instruments in 1940s-1950s Los Angeles.

Beyond my scholarly research I frequently appear on radio and TV in Australia to discuss contemporary U.S. politics and try to translate some of my research interests into opinion essays in a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Australia.

Research interests

  • U.S. History
  • Labor History
  • History of Political Economy
  • Urban History
  • Contemporary and Historical Social Movements
  • The U.S. South
  • U.S. Constitutional and Legal History
  • Historiography and Historical Thought

Teaching and supervision

Junior Units
American History from Lincoln to Obama-HSTY 1076

Senior Units
Law and Order in U.S. History- HSTY 2671
New Orleans: Disaster, Culture, Slavery, Urbanity-HSTY 2694
History and Historians-HSTY 3903

Along with the above units, I will also be introducing units on the history of world capitalism and the history of U.S. cities in the coming years.

Research Students
Emmet Gillespie
Georgia Munro-Cook

Current research students

Project title Research student
The WNBA, the Anti-Women Backlash, and the League Response Georgia MUNRO-COOK
Women in Print: a History of Gender and the U.S. Media, 1960-1980 Marama WHYTE

Current projects

I am currently completing a long-term book project that uses the history of service as a social, political, and cultural category of human labor to shed light on the rise of economic inequality in the U.S. since the early-1970s. In broad terms, the project suggests that there was nothing natural about a so-called service economy being low-waged but rather a variety of contingent histories combined in the crucible of the post-World War II U.S. to at once gave rise to such a political economy and demobilized the political forces that had enabled the growth of a modicum of working-class economic and social security in the three decades after the war. Beyond this project I am also working on short projects that deal with the recent history of inequality in New Orleans and unstated theories of social change in recent progressive politics as well as a longer term archival project centered on the political economy and social history of the urban Gulf South between the defeat of Reconstruction and World War II.

Awards and honours

Visiting Professor, University of Paris-Nanterre

American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow 2011-13

Monroe Fellowship, New Orleans Center for the Gulf South 2010-11

Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow 2009-13

Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture Writing Fellowship 2008-09

James C. Hormel Foundation Dissertation Fellowship 2007-2008

Albert J. Beveridge Fellowship, American Historical Association, 2007

Wallis Annenberg Fellowship, 2007

Keck Foundation Fellow of the Huntington Library, 2007

In the media

Nurses For Bernie
Jacobin
2016,27 February

“Where Do You Hurt?:” The People Who Might Make Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution a Reality
ABC Online
2016,26 February

What Political Revolution Looks Like in South Carolina
Huffington Post
2016, 25 February

How the Ruling Class Remade New Orleans
Jacobin
2015,29 August

A Tale of Two Katrinas
Huffington Post
2015,29 August

Yellin Touches Raw Nerve By Pointing Out Nature of U.S. Recovery
The Australian
2014,1 November

Ferguson Violence Exposes America’s Political Decay
The Age
2014,20 August

Importing U.S. Model Will Be a Recipe for Disaster
The Australian
2014,21 May

A Letter to All of You in Sandy’s Path: Learned from What You Helped Teach the Gulf Coast.

Huffington Post
2012, 29 December

On “Occupy Wall Street” and the Demobilizing Interpretation of Postwar American Protest Politics.
Huffington Post
2011, 13 December

Selected grants

2015

  • American Cultures: The View from the Pacific; Adams T; University of Sydney/Internal Scheme.

2010

  • The servicing of America: Service Work, Political Economy and the Making of Modern America; Adams T; New England Regional Fellowship Consortium/Research Grant.

Selected publications

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Edited Books

  • Adams, T., Striffler, S. (2014). Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Book Chapters

  • Adams, T. (2014). Immigration Politics, Service Work, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in Southern California. In Marilyn Halter, Marilynn S. Johnson, Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad Edick Wright (Eds.), What’s New about the "New" Immigration? Traditions and Transformations in the United States since 1965, (pp. 265-288). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [More Information]
  • Adams, T., Striffler, S. (2014). Placing Labor in New Orleans History and New Orleans in Labor History. In Thomas J. Adams, Steve Striffler (Eds.), Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans, (pp. ix-xvi). Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.
  • Adams, T. (2014). The Political Economy of Invisibility in Twenty-First Century New Orleans: Security, Hospitality, and the Post-Disaster City. In Romain Huret, Randy J. Sparks (Eds.), Hurricane Katrina in Transatlantic Perspective, (pp. 121-136). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Adams, T. (2006). Making the New Shop Floor: Wal-Mart, Labor Control, and the History of the Postwar Discount Retail Industry in America. In Nelson Lichtenstein (Eds.), Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism, (pp. 213-229). New York: The New Press.

Journals

  • Adams, T. (2015). From Moynihan to Post-Katrina New Orleans: Moral Economy, Culture, and Political Demobilization. Nonsite, (17), 1-12. [More Information]
  • Adams, T. (2014). New Orleans Brings It All Together. American Quarterly, 66(1), 245-256. [More Information]
  • Adams, T. (2014). The Theater of Inequality. Nonsite, (12), 1-15.
  • Adams, T. (2013). Gender, The Wire, and the Limits of the Producerist Critique of Modern Political Economy. Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas, 10(1), 29-34. [More Information]
  • Adams, T. (2011). Walmart and the Making of "Postindustrial Society". Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas, 8(1), 117-125. [More Information]

Conferences

  • Adams, T. (2014). Neoliberalism and American History: Opportunities, Uses and Abuses. Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting 2014, Atlanta, USA: Organization of American Historians.
  • Adams, T. (2013). The Work of Music. Southern Labor Studies Association (SLSA) 2013 Conference - The Many Souths, New Orleans, USA.
  • Adams, T. (2012). Comments on - Labor Politics in 19th and 20th Century Louisiana: Urban and Rural. Louisiana Historical Association (LHA) Annual Meeting 2012, New Orleans, USA: Louisiana Historical Association.
  • Nguyen, M., Lee, A., Shingavi, S., Adams, T. (2010). From Vincent Chin to Bobby Jindal: The Asian American 80s and Beyond. American Studies Association Annual Meeting 2010 - Crisis, Chains, and Change: American Sudies for the Twenty-first Century, San Antonio, USA: American Studies Association.
  • Adams, T. (2009). Immigration Politics, Service Labor, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in 1970s Los Angeles. Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting 2009, Washington, USA: Organization of American Historians.
  • Adams, T. (2009). “Popular Political Economy at the Dawn of the 21st Century: ‘The Wire’ and ‘Veronica Mars’”. American Studies Association Annual Meeting 2009 - Practices of Citizenship, Sustainability, and Belonging, Washington DC, USA: American Studies Association.

2015

  • Adams, T. (2015). From Moynihan to Post-Katrina New Orleans: Moral Economy, Culture, and Political Demobilization. Nonsite, (17), 1-12. [More Information]

2014

  • Adams, T. (2014). Immigration Politics, Service Work, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in Southern California. In Marilyn Halter, Marilynn S. Johnson, Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad Edick Wright (Eds.), What’s New about the "New" Immigration? Traditions and Transformations in the United States since 1965, (pp. 265-288). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [More Information]
  • Adams, T. (2014). Neoliberalism and American History: Opportunities, Uses and Abuses. Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting 2014, Atlanta, USA: Organization of American Historians.
  • Adams, T. (2014). New Orleans Brings It All Together. American Quarterly, 66(1), 245-256. [More Information]
  • Adams, T., Striffler, S. (2014). Placing Labor in New Orleans History and New Orleans in Labor History. In Thomas J. Adams, Steve Striffler (Eds.), Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans, (pp. ix-xvi). Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.
  • Adams, T. (2014). The Political Economy of Invisibility in Twenty-First Century New Orleans: Security, Hospitality, and the Post-Disaster City. In Romain Huret, Randy J. Sparks (Eds.), Hurricane Katrina in Transatlantic Perspective, (pp. 121-136). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Adams, T. (2014). The Theater of Inequality. Nonsite, (12), 1-15.
  • Adams, T., Striffler, S. (2014). Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans. Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

2013

  • Adams, T. (2013). Gender, The Wire, and the Limits of the Producerist Critique of Modern Political Economy. Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas, 10(1), 29-34. [More Information]
  • Adams, T. (2013). The Work of Music. Southern Labor Studies Association (SLSA) 2013 Conference - The Many Souths, New Orleans, USA.

2012

  • Adams, T. (2012). Comments on - Labor Politics in 19th and 20th Century Louisiana: Urban and Rural. Louisiana Historical Association (LHA) Annual Meeting 2012, New Orleans, USA: Louisiana Historical Association.

2011

  • Adams, T. (2011). Walmart and the Making of "Postindustrial Society". Labor: Studies in the Working Class History of the Americas, 8(1), 117-125. [More Information]

2010

  • Nguyen, M., Lee, A., Shingavi, S., Adams, T. (2010). From Vincent Chin to Bobby Jindal: The Asian American 80s and Beyond. American Studies Association Annual Meeting 2010 - Crisis, Chains, and Change: American Sudies for the Twenty-first Century, San Antonio, USA: American Studies Association.

2009

  • Adams, T. (2009). Immigration Politics, Service Labor, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in 1970s Los Angeles. Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting 2009, Washington, USA: Organization of American Historians.
  • Adams, T. (2009). “Popular Political Economy at the Dawn of the 21st Century: ‘The Wire’ and ‘Veronica Mars’”. American Studies Association Annual Meeting 2009 - Practices of Citizenship, Sustainability, and Belonging, Washington DC, USA: American Studies Association.

2006

  • Adams, T. (2006). Making the New Shop Floor: Wal-Mart, Labor Control, and the History of the Postwar Discount Retail Industry in America. In Nelson Lichtenstein (Eds.), Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism, (pp. 213-229). New York: The New Press.

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