Professor Christine Walley explores the long-term impacts of deindustrialization in the former steel mill community of Southeast Chicago
Exit Zero refers to the highway exit ramp number for the former steel mill neighborhoods of Southeast Chicago in the Calumet region, once one of the largest steel-producing areas in the world. Exit Zero is also the name of a book (University of Chicago Press, 2013) written by anthropologist Christine Walley, who grew up in the region as a fourth generation member of a steelworking family, as well as a documentary film made by Chris Boebel and Chris Walley. Both the book and the documentary film interweave stories of Walley's family members told over multiple generations to explore the impact that the loss of industrial jobs has had on these formerly stable steel mill communities. Both book and film offer an intimate portrait of how Americans talk – and fail to talk – about social class and underscore the social, economic, and environmental fallout of deindustrialization and its links to expanding class inequalities in the United States. This multi-pronged project also includes plans for an online documentary mapping project to be made in conjunction with the all-volunteer Southeast Chicago Historical Museum.