Chris Walley on Deindustrialization (EF, JP)

On a blustery fall morning back in 2019, RTB welcomed Christine Walley, anthropologist and author of Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago. In the early 1980s Chris’s father, along with thousands of other steel workers, lost his job when the mills in Southeastern Chicago closed. The book is part of a multimodal project, including the documentary film, “Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story,” (with director Chris Boebel) and an NEH-funded digitization project of the Southeastern Chicago Historical Museum, a community-based archive of materials related to the neighborhood.

How can academics begin conversations about class and deindustrialization with those most negatively affected by the precarious economic present? What is the secret to unpacking the great diversity hidden behind the phrase “white working class”? This episode’s signature RTB move (fleeing the present, only to discover echoes of its misery back in the past) takes us to Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South, published in 1854 just as industrialization in the North of England was taking off.

In Recallable Books, Elizabeth lingers in England’s North to recommend George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. Chris points out how Jane Addams’s Twenty Years at Hull House (though perhaps patronizing in some ways) shows us 19th century projects for combating the dislocation and suffering of deindustrialization. John goes against type by anteing up the most current of our recallable books, Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog.

Mentioned in this episode:

Listen to the episode here:

Walley Transcript

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

Support our show by becoming a premium member!

Visit New Books in Anthropology for the podcast. There is something wrong with this RSS-feed. Lorenz,