Deregulating Desire By Ryan Patrick Murphy

Introduction by
David K. Seitz

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.

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.

essays in this forum

Deregulating Desire: Reviewed by Weiqiang Lin

Through the airline industry, "Deregulating Desire" provides a masterful narrative on some of the leading problems plaguing the political economy in the last few decades. Documenting a history of labor activism that spans no fewer than four decades, the book provides a meticulous and enrapturing chronicle of the numerous advances won, and retreats suffered, by labor movements among US flight attendants since the 1970s.

By

Weiqiang Lin

Deregulating Desire: Reviewed By Caitlin Henry

Ryan Patrick Murphy’s "Deregulating Desire: Flight Attendant Activism, Family Politics, and Workplace Justice" is a rollercoaster of a read. I laughed, scoffed, and stifled yelps.

By

Caitlin Henry

Deregulating Desire: Reviewed By Alan Sears

Ryan Murphy’s "Deregulating Desire" models an integrative analysis in the examination of the ways gender, sexuality, race, and class have played out in worker activism among flight attendants in the United States. This book is an important contribution to the fields of labor studies and studies in gender and sexuality, showing how flight attendants used worker activism to fight for sexual subjectivity and resist the limitations of dominant gender roles.

By

Alan Sears

Deregulating Desire: A Response by Ryan Patrick Murphy

While I also illustrate how activists have contested objectifying practices, the participants in this author meets critics session argued that Deregulating Desire’s original contribution lies in my decision to reimagine flight attendants as subjects of desire. As Alan Sears put it, the book tells the story of a social movement built around “struggles for sexual subjectivity.” My work places desire at the center of that narrative, documenting how flight attendants mobilized to win the pleasures, the experiences, and the relationships that they wanted.

By

Ryan Patrick Murphy