The Exit Zero Project (www.exitzeroproject.org) is a transmedia exploration of the traumatic effects of the loss of the steel industry in Southeast Chicago, the impact that deindustrialization has had on expanding class inequalities in the United States more broadly, and how Americans talk – and fail to talk – about social class. The project includes an award-winning book, Exit Zero: Family and Class in Post-Industrial Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2013) authored by Christine Walley, as well as a documentary film, entitled Exit Zero: An Industrial Family Story (2016) made in conjunction with director and filmmaker Chris Boebel. The book and film use first person narration to trace the stories of multiple generations of writer/producer Walley’s family in this once-thriving steel mill community. From the turn-of-the-century experience of immigrants who worked in Chicago’s mammoth industries to the labor struggles of the 1930s to the seemingly unfathomable closure of the steel mills in the 1980s and 90s, these family stories convey a history that serves as a microcosm of the broader national experience of deindustrialization and its economic and environmental aftermath. The project also includes an interactive documentary website with both a storytelling and archival component that is being made in collaboration with the Southeast Chicago Historical Museum. In this talk, Professor Walley will talk about her research into this topic and how it found expression in a book, website, and documentary film.
Walley received a Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University in 1999. Her first book, Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an East African Marine Park (Princeton University Press, 2004), was based on field research exploring environmental conflict in rural Tanzania. Chris Walley and Chris Boebel are also the co-creators and co-instructors of the documentary film production and theory class DV Lab: Documenting Science Through Video and New Media.