Eastern Oregon University Professor of History Ryan Dearinger will give a talk entitled “Dirty Work: Hop-Picking Cultures and the Perils of Diversity in the Pacific Northwest” at Western Washington University from 4-5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25 in Western Libraries Special Collections (Wilson Library 6th floor).
The event is free and open to the public.
Dearinger’s research incorporates a regional lens to examine conflicts over race, class, labor, immigration, and national belonging. In his talk, he will explore the shifting cultural bridges and walls of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century U.S. West through a close examination of the hop industry in the Pacific Northwest.
The early Pacific Northwest hop industry featured a seasonal, low-wage labor force that was notable for its diversity. Americans, American Indians, European and Asian immigrants, children, entire families, tourists, convicts, and even prisoners of war toiled as hop-pickers throughout the region. In turn, settled and itinerant populations from the Puget Sound to the Willamette Valley (and beyond) carved out spaces, constructed cultural traditions and identities, and created sites of inclusion despite the persistent segregation of fields, tasks, and opportunities. Over time, the cyclical boom-and-bust nature of the hop industry, shifting ideas about the value of hop-picking, and popular narratives of white American labor, citizenship, and progress merged with ongoing anti-immigrant campaigns to physically and metaphorically transform the Northwest’s hop fields.
Through his analysis of labor protests, riots, and violence, along with community reactions to each, Dearinger’s research unpacks the ways in which diversity morphed from an opportunity into a threat in Northwest, underscoring the challenges faced by native and immigrant laborers in the changing Pacific Northwest. Dearinger explores the painstaking labor required to destroy some cultural bridges, and build, justify, and reinforce new cultural walls.
Dearinger’s work has been published widely and includes a chapter in the book “Immigrants in the Far West: Historical Identities and Experiences” (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2014), and a review essay, “Interracial Roads to American Freedom” in “Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life.” Dearinger’s book, “The Filth of Progress: Immigrants, Americans, and the Building of Canals and Railroads in the West,” was published in 2016 by the University of California Press and received the 2017 Best First Book Award from Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. Dearinger joined Eastern Oregon University’s history department in 2009. His research and teaching interests include the American West and the Pacific Northwest; immigration; race and ethnicity; labor and working-class history; environmental history; and violence in American history.
This talk is offered as part of the Heritage Resources Distinguished Speakers program. For more information about the event, please contact Ruth Steele, CPNWS Archivist, at (360) 650-7747 or Ruth.Steele@wwu.edu.