A rural industrial drift

The reporters are Matthias (nomad)  and Sarah (resident (in dark blue)

At the farmer’s market.  A three-piece band in the basketball gym of a school, Saturday morning. Booths suggesting the cheerful side of barely getting by. This is what neoliberalism looks like on a cold, sunny spring morning. People producing marginal objects – coffee, jam, knitted hats & shawls. The atmosphere is almost downright exuberant. Organizer of market describes how easy it was to get the space ‘donated’ by the school. Principal was into it. farmersmkt1sm Continue reading

Mapping from below workshop

"Where you at?" workshop

“Where you at?” workshop

Where you at? was a workshop on making and thinking with maps that was held on Friday March 22, 2014 in the Morris library at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The walls were covered with a collection of maps resourced from the library GIS area and a text written by Nick Smaligo and I that offered observations on the instrumental power of cartography.
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Between the Bottomlands and the World

Between the Bottomlands and the World is a video trilogy and book project that explores a rural mid-western town of 6000 people—a place of global exchange and international mobility, inscribed by post-NAFTA realities. Recent scholarship shows that immigrants are moving to rural communities in the Midwest at the same rate that they are moving to cities. Historically, Midwestern cities were home to industries that attracted immigrant workers, becoming hubs for those seeking work. Today, many remaining industries lie outside the city, in rural towns unencumbered by urban regulations. In the case of Beardstown, the major industry—a slaughterhouse—recruited new immigrants from the Texas border, Mexico, and later from Congo, Togo, Senegal, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean locales, to what was an all-white, “sundown” town.

As social struggles have been fought and won in this small town, its existence has consistently relied on one multinational corporate giant, which is currently Cargill. Hence, workers come and go, hogs are slaughtered and shipped out at the rate of 18,000 a day, grain travels from the fields to the Cargill loading docks on the Illinois River where they enter national and international markets. Between the Bottomlands… tells this story of global mobility in a rural, Heartland town, through looking at the trades of meat and grain as well as the stories of newcomers. One chapter (Submerging Land) looks at the engineering of contemporary agricultural land from a network of rivers and marshes that once surrounded the town, while a second (Granular Space)explores the vast transportation network connecting Beardstown to ports across the globe. A final, forthcoming, video (Moving Flesh) uses interviews with long-time residents and new-comers, from such disparate locales as Detroit, Mexico and Togo, and re-stages them through fictionalized and composite characters, relating the current effects of globalization on individuals and communities. This final video is subtitled in French and Spanish.

The first two videos are included in their entirety below, along a short introduction to Moving Flesh.

A book will accompany the videos, with an experimental glossary and an essay by Faranak Miraftab, an urban planner and principle researcher on this project. Between the Bottomlands and the World is a project by Ryan Griffis and Sarah Ross.

Cartography with your feet

Screenprint poster for Cartography with Your Feet at the US Social ForumHow can the scattered communities of the Rust Belt and the Corn Belt recognize each other, connect, share resources and build cultures of transformation? The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor is a sign, a vision, an invitation to meet people in cities, towns and rural areas on the roads to Detroit, to learn about local situations and find common issues. Our group of artists and writers, The Compass, is dedicated to exploring the radical roots of better futures for the region. This workshop offers a convergence for caravanistas, bicyclists and walkers to say how they are linking their home environments, projects and struggles to other localities and initiatives. Participants can tell stories of their travels, show images with a projector and trace out routes on a large map of North America, locating the places they found most meaningful. Key themes are environmental and social justice campaigns, alternative food production, cultures of resistance and grassroots institutions. Follow-ups during the Forum will include a walking tour in Detroit in collaboration with local inhabitants. We will also carry out video interviews with participants about the life path that has led them to Detroit, to create a lasting document distributed for free. Everyone paying special attention to the territory they cross on their road to the Forum is invited to share. This workshop can be merged with any similar proposal: the point is to meet people and make the dream of the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor into a reality. Map it with your feet!

Continental Drift through the MRCC

cdmrccFrom June 4 to 14, 2008, a group of people traveled through Illinois and Wisconsin in search of a Radical Midwest. Starting in Urbana, Illinois and winding our way through Chicago, Milwaukee, rural Wisconsin, and Madison, we visited places where alternate pasts and futures sprout up and grow roots in the stress-fractures of a society built on violence, exploitation, and environmental destruction. We visited community groups fighting power companies for decades of environmental racism; learned about preserving Underground Railroad sites in Chicago; watched a 35-year old film about revolutionary black street gangs with the man who wrote it; cleaned a flood-damaged bookstore; and passed the time on many, many farms.

The trip was called Continental Drift and extended the seminars of that name organized by Brian Holmes, Claire Pentecost, and the people at 16 Beaver Group. The name proposes a radical geography that thinks place, culture, and economics simultaneously and contends that neoliberal capitalism and American militarism—as well as the international social movements that counter them — are radically reshaping the world on scales from the interpersonal to the geopolitical. The Midwest gathering doubled this sense of the word “drift.” Through the mobile exploration of the geographies of capital and resistance in a particular place, the seminar also became a derive, favored as an affective, embodied research tool by the Situationists of fifty years ago. In contrast to earlier seminars, this Drift unfolded over ten days, 725 miles, and several rainy nights spent in tents, fostering a level of familiarity, even intimacy among the travelers and those we visited.

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(excerpted from the introduction to A Call to Farms)