Maia Silber

Graduate Student

I am a social and political historian of work in the 20th Century United States. My dissertation, Odd Jobs: Labor, Politics, and Precarity in Postwar America, examines a central tension of the New Deal order: the triumph of “security” as a structuring ideal for labor relations, and the persistence of precarious labor arrangements even among the workforces that enjoyed greater statutory protections. I ask how state officials and ordinary workers alike constructed and contested the categories of the “steady job” and its binary opposite, the “odd job,” in debates about the welfare state, wage and hour laws, collective bargaining rights, and immigration. In contrast to historical and sociological studies that examine contingent hiring arrangements as a paradigm of the neoliberal era, I ask how Americans grappled with the problem of precarity in an age of security. My dissertation research is generously supported by the Russell Sage Foundation.

My other intellectual interests include U.S. housing policy, domestic labor in a global context, and the history of the family.  My scholarship has been published in The Journal of Urban History and The History Workshop Journal, and I write criticism  and commentary for publications such as The New Yorker, The Washington PostJacobinPublic BooksPsycheThe Harvard Review, and The Chicago Review. Previously, I received an M.Phil in British and European History from the University of Oxford, where I was a Rhodes Scholar. Before that, I received a B.A. from Harvard College in History and Literature. 

Year of Study
Sixth Year
Area of Interest
African American
Gender & Sexuality
Immigration & Migration
Labor History
Legal History
Political History
Public History
Home Department & Other Affiliations
20th Century