front cover of The Wagon and Other Stories from the City
The Wagon and Other Stories from the City
Martin Preib
University of Chicago Press, 2010

Martin Preib is an officer in the Chicago Police Department—a beat cop whose first assignment as a rookie policeman was working on the wagon that picks up the dead. Inspired by Preib’s daily life on the job, The Wagon and Other Stories from the City chronicles the outer and inner lives of both a Chicago cop and the city itself.

The book follows Preib as he transports body bags, forges an unlikely connection with his female partner, trains a younger officer, and finds himself among people long forgotten—or rendered invisible—by the rest of society. Preib recounts how he navigates the tenuous labyrinths of race and class in the urban metropolis, such as a domestic disturbance call involving a gang member and his abused girlfriend or a run-in with a group of drunk yuppies. As he encounters the real and imagined geographies of Chicago, the city reveals itself to be not just a backdrop, but a central force in his narrative of life and death. Preib’s accounts, all told in his breathtaking prose, come alive in ways that readers will long remember.


front cover of When Tenants Claimed the City
When Tenants Claimed the City
The Struggle for Citizenship in New York City Housing
Roberta Gold
University of Illinois Press, 2014

In postwar America, not everyone wanted to move out of the city and into the suburbs. For decades before World War II, New York's tenants had organized to secure renters' rights. After the war, tenant activists raised the stakes by challenging the newly-dominant ideal of homeownership in racially segregated suburbs. They insisted that renters as well as owners had rights to stable, well-maintained homes, and they proposed that racially diverse urban communities held a right to remain in place--a right that outweighed owners' rights to raise rents, redevelop properties, or exclude tenants of color.  Further, the activists asserted that women could participate fully in the political arenas where these matters were decided. 

Grounded in archival research and oral history, When Tenants Claimed the City: The Struggle for Citizenship in New York City Housing shows that New York City's tenant movement made a significant claim to citizenship rights that came to accrue, both ideologically and legally, to homeownership in postwar America. Roberta Gold emphasizes the centrality of housing to the racial and class reorganization of the city after the war; the prominent role of women within the tenant movement; and their fostering of a concept of "community rights" grounded in their experience of living together in heterogeneous urban neighborhoods.


front cover of Whose School Is It?
Whose School Is It?
Women, Children, Memory, and Practice in the City
By Rhoda H. Halperin
University of Texas Press, 2006

Whose School Is It?: Women, Children, Memory, and Practice in the City is a success story with roadblocks, crashes, and detours. Rhoda Halperin uses feminist theorist and activist Gloria Anzaldúa's ideas about borderlands created by colliding cultures to deconstruct the creation and advancement of a public community charter school in a diverse, long-lived urban neighborhood on the Ohio River. Class, race, and gender mix with age, local knowledge, and place authenticity to create a page-turning story of grit, humor, and sheer stubbornness. The school has grown and flourished in the face of daunting market forces, class discrimination, and an increasingly unfavorable national climate for charter schools. Borderlands are tense spaces. The school is a microcosm of the global city.

Many theoretical strands converge in this book—feminist theory, ideas about globalization, class analysis, and accessible narrative writing—to present some new approaches in urban anthropology. The book is multi-voiced and nuanced in ways that provide authenticity and texture to the real circumstances of urban lives. At the same time, identities are threatened as community practices clash with rules and regulations imposed by outsiders.

Since it is based on fifteen years of ethnographic fieldwork in the community and the city, Whose School Is It? brings unique long-term perspectives on continuities and disjunctures in cities. Halperin's work as researcher and advocate also provides insider perspectives that are rare in the literature of urban anthropology.


front cover of Workers against the City
Workers against the City
The Fight for Free Speech in Hague v. CIO
Donald W. Rogers
University of Illinois Press, 2020
The 1939 Supreme Court decision Hague v. CIO was a constitutional milestone that strengthened the right of Americans, including labor organizers, to assemble and speak in public places. Donald W. Rogers eschews the prevailing view of the case as a morality play pitting Jersey City, New Jersey, political boss Frank Hague against the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) and allied civil libertarian groups. Instead, he draws on a wide range of archives and evidence to re-evaluate Hague v. CIO from the ground up. Rogers's review of the case from district court to the Supreme Court illuminates the trial proceedings and provides perspectives from both sides. As he shows, the economic, political, and legal restructuring of the 1930s refined constitutional rights as much as the court case did. The final decision also revealed that assembly and speech rights change according to how judges and lawmakers act within the circumstances of a given moment.
Clear-eyed and comprehensive, Workers against the City revises the view of a milestone case that continues to impact Americans' constitutional rights today.

front cover of Workers from the North
Workers from the North
Plantations, Bolivian Labor, and the City in Northwest Argentina
By Scott Whiteford
University of Texas Press, 1981

International migration between countries in Latin America became increasingly important during the twentieth century, but for a long time it was the subject of only limited research. Scott Whiteford sets the Argentina-Bolivia experience in historical perspective by examining the macrolevel factors that influenced social change in both countries and brought streams of migration into Argentina. Seasonal labor, the expansion of capitalist agriculture, international migration, and urbanization are central topics in this in-depth study of Bolivian migrants in Northwest Argentina.

Whiteford’s vivid portrayal of the lives and working conditions of the migrants is based on two years of research during which he lived with the workers on a sugar plantation and, after the harvest, accompanied them to other farms and to the city of Salta in their search for more work. He traces the development of plantation agriculture in Northwest Argentina and the processes by which the plantation gained access to cheap labor and maintained control over it.

As Bolivians migrated to Argentina in ever greater numbers, many recruited for the harvest remained. Whiteford’s analysis of the diverse strategies employed by workers and their families to support themselves during the post-harvest season is a major contribution to migration literature. The four distinct but related patterns of migration that he describes created a labor reserve that transcends rural/urban designations, one that is utilized by employers in both the countryside and the city.


front cover of The World in a City
The World in a City
Multiethnic Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles
David M. Struthers
University of Illinois Press, 2019
A massive population shift transformed Los Angeles in the first decades of the twentieth century. Americans from across the country relocated to the city even as an unprecedented transnational migration brought people from Asia, Europe, and Mexico. Together, these newcomers forged a multiethnic alliance of anarchists, labor unions, and leftists dedicated to challenging capitalism, racism, and often the state.

David M. Struthers draws on the anarchist concept of affinity to explore the radicalism of Los Angeles's interracial working class from 1900 to 1930. Uneven economic development created precarious employment and living conditions for laborers. The resulting worker mobility led to coalitions that, inevitably, remained short lived. As Struthers shows, affinity helps us understand how individual cooperative actions shaped and reshaped these alliances. It also reveals social practices of resistance that are often too unstructured or episodic for historians to capture. What emerges is an untold history of Los Angeles and a revolutionary movement that, through myriad successes and failures, produced powerful examples of racial cooperation.


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