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Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (Paperback)
  • Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (Paperback)

Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago (Paperback)

Paperback 240 Pages / Published: 26/03/2013
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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 de-industrialization 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 de-industrialization, "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 counter narrative that gives a new voice to the many Americans whose distress resulting from de-industrialization has too often counter narrative ignored.

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226871806
Number of pages: 240
Weight: 318 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm

"How a person feels about herself, as she contemplates her class positioning, is central to Exit Zero, Christine Walley's superb memoir or 'autoethnography.' . . . But there is more here than family history: Walley uses the stories of these people to reflect more generally on the kinds of stories people of the United States tell to make sense of social class and, particularly, of industrial progress and deindustrialization."
--Richard Handler "American Ethnologist "
"Exit Zero is a poignant and scholarly engagement with the topics of class and mobility. It offers an accessible entry point for undergraduates and an ideal model of reflexive methodology for advanced readers. It pushes us to ponder fundamental questions about family, national myths, and the end-goal of upward mobility."
--Mary Pattillo "Contemporary Sociology "
"In the early years of Working-Class Studies, I worried that we sometimes valorized the personal without demanding that it generate political and scholarly analysis. With Walley's book, we see that this field has developed a signature genre: the hybrid of autobiography and scholarly analysis previously illustrated most effectively by Jack Metzgar in Striking Steel and Barbara Jensen in Reading Classes. Such books go beyond telling working-class stories to demonstrate the critical practice of constructing theories of class through the analysis of experience. Exit Zero offers us both an engaging story and insightful analysis."--Sherry Linkon "Working-Class Studies "
"Christine J. Walley's vivid, frank, and insightful autoethnography casts a stark light on the travails of the American working class in the last century. In Exit Zero, she evokes the long hours and dangerous conditions of Chicago's steel mills in their glory days, the heedless dumping of toxic waste that may have made Walley a cancer victim in her twenties, and the terrible toll the mills' closing took on middle-aged men who would never work again. Progressive, but never politically correct, Walley gives a warts-and-all portrayal of Chicago's white working class that does not smooth over its racist and sexist underside, while challenging middle-class readers to cast aside their own romanticized or paternalistic stereotypes of the declining white working class."--Hugh Gusterson, George Mason University
"Telling the story of how the demise and collapse of the Southeast Chicago steel industry in the 1980s transformed her family's sense of past and future, Christine J. Walley shows us that analyzing class, gender, and race always demands that we weave between the personal and the political, that we think across the intimate, the institutional, and even the international. Exit Zero is autoethnography, political economy, immigration history, and urban anthropology at its best."--Stefan Helmreich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Exit Zero is a gem that will appeal to a variety of audiences. Christine Walley's analysis of how community residents in Southeast Chicago--and particularly members of her family--experienced deindustrialization is sensitive and illuminating, and her discussion of what it was like for her to leave Southeast Chicago to enter the upper-middle class world reinforces her message that the working class world is poorly understood both in popular culture and in mainstream academic literature. In the last full chapter, on the environmental dimension of social class, she breaks new ground. Exit Zero is an intense account of a little-considered part of the American experience."

--David Bensman, Rutgers University (04/26/2012)

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