The following book review forum takes up Ryan Patrick Murphy’s book Deregulating Desire: Flight Attendant Activism, Family Politics, and Workplace Justice (2016, Temple University Press).
The recipient of the Organization of American Historians’ 2017 David Montgomery Award for the best book on a topic in U.S. labor and working-class history, Deregulating Desire offers an empirically rich and beautifully written account of the politics of gender, sexuality and race in late 20th-century U.S. flight attendant organizing. At its core, this impressive book tells an exhilarating story about how 1960s and 1970s feminist and gay movements enriched the analysis, demands, and gains of flight attendant labor organizing. It also offers a powerful indictment of what Murphy calls an ascendant “pro-work, pro-family” ideology that mobilized reactionary, highly gendered cultural assumptions about who constitutes a “breadwinner” to claw back flight attendants’ hard-fought improvements in wages and working conditions. Murphy’s book provides ample material and analysis for engagement and critical consideration by economic, social and cultural geographers interested in questions of labor, social movements, difference, and desire. The forum on this book reflects an in-person conversation that had been planned for the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Boston in April 2017, but was relocated to the Canadian Association of Geographers’ Annual Meeting in Toronto that June in response to the U.S. administration’s travel ban. The organizer of the AAG/CAG panel, David K. Seitz, would like to thank author Ryan Patrick Murphy and reviewers Weiqiang Lin, Caitlin Henry and Alan Sears, as well as two original participants, Carmen Teeple Hopkins and Marion Werner, who were unable to participate in the relocated conversation.