This book has its origin in the Latin American Labor History Conference
held annually since 1984, first at Yale, occasionally at Princeton and Stony
Brook, and for the last four years at Duke University. Most of the essays were
first presented at this conference. The editors of the volume founded the con-
ference and have helped organize it ever since. Part formal conference, part
informal workshop, part
grupo de ajinidad,
the annual gathering has provided
a vital intellectual space where the issues of labor history in Latin America
can be debated. The editors, and, we are sure, the other contributors to this
volume, are indebted to one another and to all the participants who over the
years have made this such a fertile intellectual environment.
A larger intellectual debt looms for many of us. Emilia Viotti da Costa was
a decisive presence for many of the contributors-as a colleague, as a disser-
tation adviser, and as an incisive participant in many of the conferences. The
breadth of her intellectual concerns, her dedication to advancing the work
of her students and colleagues, and the passion of her commitment to re-
constructing the history of the oppressed of Latin America have provided a
model for all of us involved in this collection. A long time ago, she explained
to a young assistant professor anxious to make his mark on the field that,
while ambition is laudable, the most lasting intellectual contributions in his-
tory have come not from attacking parodied versions of the work of earlier
generations of scholars but from critical and respectful engagement with that
work. Each generation of scholars sees clearer and farther if it can stand on
the shoulders of its predecessors. Those of us who have worked with Emilia
Viotti have indeed been privileged to stand on the shoulders of a giant. While
she may not agree with all of the conclusions reached, and while she may ques-
tion some of the theoretical paths followed, her spirit pervades this volume.
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