Sarah Jacobson

Advisor: Karrin Hanshew

Committee: Sean Forner, Edward Murphy, Aminda Smith

Fields: Modern Europe; Modern Germany; Modern Italy; Women and Gender Studies

Research Languages: Italian and German

Educational Background: M.A. History, Michigan State University (2016). B.A. History, Brigham Young University (2013).


Courses Taught at MSU:

  • HST 295 The Nazis
  • SOC 351 Gendered Violence and Power

I am a doctoral candidate in Modern European History. My research interests center on issues of identity and belonging, namely intersections between migration, housing, citizenship, and the nation-state as our world became increasingly globalized after the end of the Second World War.

My current research project, entitled “Squatting to Make Ends Meet: Southern Italian Migrants and the Right to a Home in 1970s Italy and West Germany,” uses housing as an understudied lens into how migrants engaged in “participatory citizenship” to lay claim to substantive rights, irrespective of formal citizenship status. Comparing two cities – Turin (Italy) and Frankfurt (West Germany) – I show how migrants actively resisted both physical marginalization and social and political exclusion by engaging in rent strikes, marches, and illegal housing occupations. I employ a variety of methods from numerous disciplines, analyzing archival sources, municipal meeting notes, underground flyers, newspaper articles, city census data, and oral interviews in order to ascertain the lived reality of Italian migrants. I also examine the actions of governing officials in responding to housing grievances when the welfare state was perceived to be in a state of crisis. Though migrants couched their claims in terms of universal rights, they did so to highlight specific instances of injustice. Their interactions with their neighbors, community members, and municipal authorities highlight how local spaces, rather than the nation-state, became a node for citizenship and belonging. In asserting their claims to proper housing, migrants propelled what Henri Lefebvre deemed a “right to the city,” reshaping the relationship between state and citizen. My forthcoming article on one case study, “Reformulating Urban Citizenship: Italian Migrants and Housing Occupations in 1970s Frankfurt,” will be published in the Yearbook of Transnational History’s 2022 volume.

My research has been generously funded through the Muelder-Lowe Graduate Award (2019), a guest stay research grant at the University of Cologne (2018), the Milton E. Meulder Graduate Fellowship in History (2017), the Gliozzo Dissertation Scholarship (2017), the College of Social Sciences, and the Department of History. I am grateful to my students for nominating me for the IAH Sommers Teaching Excellence Award, which I received in 2017.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.