English in the “hurricane winds of change”: Labor market intermediaries and literacy in two Indiana counties

Michael Pennell, Purdue University


This project addresses the gap between literacy and economy by situating and exploring literacy as it is happening in post-industrial America, specifically the post-industrial America of the Midwest region. At a time when it is becoming passé to mention that our world is becoming more global or digital, this project aims to explore in detail “literacy after the revolution” (Faigley) by focusing on labor market intermediaries (LMIs), such as temporary work agencies, adult learning centers, and union halls, and the increasing, rather than diminishing, significance of place in two regions of the American Midwest. As “sponsors of literacy” (Brandt), LMIs represent a growing interface between workers and employers unexplored by literacy researchers. The project focuses on two regions within the American Midwest between the years 1973 and 2001 that represent the growing industrial/post-industrial divide of the past century—Lake County and Tippecanoe County in Indiana. Relying on a variety of statistical data for the two regions, pulled from U.S. Census reports, Bureau of Labor data, and State of Indiana reports, the project presents a thick, if varied, consideration of literacy in the regions in order to more fully explore the forces of democracy and capitalism. Networks of literacy and economy are investigated through LMIs and community ecologies, offering educators points of intersection and engagement with such local institutions.




Sullivan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Composition|American studies|Geography

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