Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago

University of Chicago Press
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Winner of CLR James Book Prize from the Working Class Studies Association and 2nd Place for the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing.

In 1980, Christine J. Walley’s world was turned upside down when the steel mill in Southeast Chicago where her father worked abruptly closed. In the ensuing years, ninety thousand other area residents would also lose their jobs in the mills—just one example of the vast scale of deindustrialization occurring across the United States. The disruption of this event propelled Walley into a career as a cultural anthropologist, and now, in Exit Zero, she brings her anthropological perspective home, examining the fate of her family and that of blue-collar America at large. Interweaving personal narratives and family photos with a nuanced assessment of the social impacts of deindustrialization, Exit Zero is one part memoir and one part ethnography— providing a much-needed female and familial perspective on cultures of labor and their decline. Through vivid accounts of her family’s struggles and her own upward mobility, Walley reveals the social landscapes of America’s industrial fallout, navigating complex tensions among class, labor, economy, and environment. Unsatisfied with the notion that her family’s turmoil was inevitable in the ever-forward progress of the United States, she provides a fresh and important counternarrative that gives a new voice to the many Americans whose distress resulting from deindustrialization has too often been ignored.

This book is part of a project that also includes a documentary film and interactive website. For more information, and the chance to share your own stories, photos, and artefacts regarding the history of Southeast Chicago, please visit: http://www.exitzeroproject.org/
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About the author

Christine Walley is associate professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jan 17, 2013
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780226871813
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Rough Waters explores one of the most crucial problems of the contemporary era--struggles over access to, and use of, the environment. It combines insights from anthropology, history, and environmental studies, mounting an interdisciplinary challenge to contemporary accounts of "globalization." The book focuses on The Mafia Island Marine Park, a national park in Tanzania that became the center of political conflict during its creation in the mid-1990s. The park, reflecting a new generation of internationally sponsored projects, was designed to encourage environmental conservation as well as development. Rather than excluding residents, as had been common in East Africa's mainland wildlife parks, Mafia Island was intended to represent a new type of national park that would encourage the participation of area residents and incorporate their ideas.

While the park had been described in the project's general management plan as "for the people and by the people," residents remained excluded from the most basic decisions made about the park. The book details the day-to-day tensions and alliances that arose among Mafia residents, Tanzanian government officials, and representatives of international organizations, as each group attempted to control and define the park. Walley's analysis argues that a technocentric approach to conservation and development can work to the detriment of both poorer people and the environment. It further suggests that the concept of the global may be inadequate for understanding this and other social dramas in the contemporary world.

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