Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arlie Russell Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Arlie Russell Hochschild

Since 1971, eminent feminist sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild has been on the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also earned her PhD and is now professor emerita. Hochschild’s father was the United States ambassador to Ghana, Tunisia, and New Zealand, and she grew up in a house where, as she puts it in her essay collection The Commercialization of Intimate Life, “my mother was the sad caretaker and my father the happy non-caretaker.” She writes in the preface to Strangers in Their Own Land that traveling with her father made her feel that her role was to “reach out” to people from vastly different cultural backgrounds, and that that experience was an important foundation for this book. Her household’s traditional but unsatisfying gender roles drove her research to focus largely on changing family dynamics, and her pioneering approach to the study of those dynamics’ emotional consequences has led many to consider her a founder of the “sociology of emotion.” In her 1983 book The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, Hochschild famously developed the concept of “emotional labor,” meaning work that revolves around people’s expression and regulation of emotions—her examples in the book were flight attendants and bill collectors. But her most influential book, and the one that thrust her into the public spotlight, was her next, The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home, in which she argued that working mothers end up caught between “traditional” and “egalitarian” roles, taking on a double burden of labor and doing the majority of domestic work. She has also written The Time Bind, which explored working parents’ attempts to balance family time and company time; The Outsourced Self, which investigated places where one person’s love is another person’s commodity—surrogate mothers, nannies, and dating coaches, among others; and two books of essays (one edited, one original). Hochschild’s work is distinguished by its intensive interview method, emphasis on the emotional effects of changing labor and family structures, and its careful critique of second-wave feminism’s unintended consequences. In addition to her academic work, she continues to direct the Center for Working Families in Berkeley.
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Historical Context of Strangers in Their Own Land

The rise of the Tea Party since 2009 is the most influential historical development for the people Hochschild meets. The Tea Party’s growth was largely a response to disaffection with President Obama, who was seen as threatening Christian morality and trying to expand the federal government to help minorities and recipients of government assistance “cut” white workers in line for the American Dream. Hochschild dedicates Chapter 14 to the Tea Party’s historical antecedents: namely, the Southern responses to the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Both were seen as unjustified Northern moralistic intervention—the Civil War destroyed the South’s economy and poor whites’ aspirations to become rich planters, and the Civil Rights Movement in particular (along with other marginalized groups’ struggles for equality in the 1960s and 1970s) again painted blue-collar white Southern conservatives as the backwards enemies of progress, destroying the sense of cultural honor that Hochschild says the Tea Party is fighting to restore. In particular, the backlash to 1960s cultural discourse was a central reason Louisiana flipped from a centrist Democratic state to a conservative Republican one over the following half-century. And, of course, the oil industry’s growth and alliance with Louisiana’s government are key components of the state’s increasing environmental desperation.

Other Books Related to Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land is indebted to earlier academic investigations of populist sentiment and everyday working-class experience in the United States. Thomas Frank’s widely popular 2004 book What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America surveyed the factors that turned Kansas from liberal to conservative populism. Barbara Ehrenreich, a friend and sometime coauthor of Hochschild’s, is best known for her 1996 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, for which she went “undercover” in low-wage work to demonstrate the human cost of poverty and economic precarity in the United States. Stud Terkel’s numerous collections of oral histories—most famously, Working—were also an early landmark in this genre, compiling the stories of everyday Americans to offer a rich portrait of what it feels to live their lives. Conversely, Kathleen Stewart’s A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America offers a much more academic and theoretically complex look at the way people in coal-mining West Virginia think about their environmentally devastated, working-class, conservative place’s “otherness” to the American mainstream. J. D. Vance recently published the popular bestseller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis about growing up in this same Appalachian region. Furthremore, journalist Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart was one of the first books to investigate the increasing political polarization in the 21st century United States as American communities become increasingly homogeneous, and political scientist James Campbell published Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America addresses polarization from a more historical and statistical perspective. Peggy Frankland, the East Texas environmental activist Hochschild mentions in Chapter Two, has written a history of Women Pioneers of the Louisiana Environmental Movement.
Key Facts about Strangers in Their Own Land
  • Full Title: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
  • When Written: 2011-2016, 2018 (afterword)
  • Where Written: Louisiana and Berkeley, CA
  • When Published: 2016 (1st ed.), 2018 (2nd ed.)
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Sociology
  • Genre: American Sociology
  • Setting: South and Southwest Louisiana (especially Lake Charles).
  • Antagonist: Empathy Walls
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for Strangers in Their Own Land

I-10 Bridge Repairs. The dangerous I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles, which Mike Tritico and Donny McCorquodale argue about in Chapter 12, is finally undergoing repairs. As of March 2018, the state government is deciding whether to build a new bridge or try to repair the existing one, which risks spreading the ethylene dichloride contamination that is threatening the current bridge’s foundations.