Corporate Empire: Fordism and the Making of Immigrant Detroit 1908–1956
Akhtar will work on completing her book manuscript, which examines how the social engineering projects of the Ford Motor Company’s capitalist enterprise shaped the social and material worlds of labor migrants in the first half of the twentieth century. Her project focuses on the company’s appeal to emerging markets in the so-called “Orient” through a type of cultural imperialism, which used film, advertisements, and photography to advocate for technological modernity, civility, and Americanism. These messages were distributed to cities in the greater Middle East with the aim of creating opportunities for American commerce abroad while also having the effect of drawing immigrant workers to assembly lines in Detroit. The analysis for this project is located between the (moving) image and the built environment, which became key sites of power and struggle between corporate forces and immigrant groups. In its entirety, the book examines how visual propaganda and the built environment figured into the growth of a major American enterprise and Fordist constructions of identity, citizenship, and nationalism.