Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jonathan Flatley


Singing Solidarity looks at songs and song culture in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) from its inception to its decline near the start of WWI and examines how IWW songs engaged with, transformed, and directed workers’ feelings to “spur [them] to action” (Gould 47). Songs in the IWW repertoire created a sense of group identity and cohesion, supporting the IWW’s project of class consciousness and working-class solidarity. This solidarity, I argue, was felt rather than theorized. The felt solidarity of the IWW collective was intensified through the act of singing as a group, which was simultaneously an instantiation of as well as a catalyst or “spur” for solidarity. This dissertation argues that IWW songs were an integral part of providing IWW members with a sense of “what [their] feelings are and what they mean” and a way of “figuring out and understanding what they are feeling” (Gould 34). In this sense, IWW songs created and perpetuated what Deborah Gould, in Moving Politics, terms “emotional habitus,” or a group’s “inclinations toward certain feelings and way of emoting” (32). Group members may have a range of affects, or what are pre-conscious feelings that are not yet formed or articulated as specific emotions. An emotional habitus untangles those affects and provides group members with a collective framework for articulating their feelings. In having a common emotional framework, group members feel part of the group. Through “emotional pedagogy,” or emotional education, some feelings are given language and meaning in the habitus while others are not, which emphasizes particular ways of feeling (34). IWW songs helped to create and perpetuate an emotional habitus that responded to members’ feelings of weakness, fear, and discontent and enabled individual workers to recognize those feelings as collective feelings. The songs then provided a sense of how and what to feel, emphasizing feelings of collective power and anger, and mobilized those feelings against employers and the wage system.