#9 Peripheral Vision


By AREA Staff — It is easy to call Chicago a center, but it takes more effort to recall that all centers have their peripheries, edges, outer zones, and hinterlands—the surroundings that help to define the center as much as any factor or element found within the city. Moreover, Chicago is a center in many senses of the word. […]

Inheriting the Grid #9

By Rebecca Zorach — In each of AREA Chicago’s previous issues, founding editor Daniel Tucker wrote an editorial called “Inheriting the Grid.” This is the first “Inheriting the Grid” he hasn’t written and the first issue he hasn’t been centrally involved in editing. For this issue, the grid that Dan S. Wang and I have inherited is, thus, Daniel’s. […]

Section I

By AREA — Inhabitants call it "The Calumet" or even just "The Region." The Region—comprising the far Southeast Side of Chicago, parts of the South Suburbs, and parts of Northwest Indiana—is connected by ecology and economy, refusing to respect the boundaries of cities or even states. The word calumet comes from French, and refers to an Indian pipe, […]

A Partial Directory of Calumet Region/South Suburbs Resources

By AREA — Altgeld Gardens and Carver Alumni Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living, Chicago and Pembroke Township, IL  Bronzeville/Black Chicagoan Historical Society Calumet Heritage Partnership  CODE PINK Northwest Indiana  Generations for Peace HACO, 16028 Halsted St, Harvey, IL 60426-5201 (708) 339-7902  Healthy South Chicago  International Society of Sons and Daughters of Slave Ancestry Hotel Florence/Pullman State […]

A South Chicago Educational Eco-Activist

By Joann Podkul — I grew up in a very gritty Southeast Chicago, when the mills and related industries were thriving. Shops along Commercial Avenue, while not large (except for Goldblatt’s Department Store), appealed to a wide range of incomes. It was easy for young men to quit school and find work in the mills that paid enough in […]

U.S. Steel South Works

By Charles Vinz — Over most of the 20th century, approximately 5.5 square miles (3520 acres) of land have been added to the city of Chicago by means of infill into Lake Michigan. In contrast to much of Chicago’s historical annexations, most of this land was added as a public amenity, an asset for the city to increase access […]

Shut This Authoritarian Nightmare Down!

By Anthony Rayson — I was born smack dab in the middle of the Great Baby Boom, Nineteen Fifty-Three, with the H-Bomb and Josef Stalin’s death. The fourth of seven children, for which I shared a room, So the Sixties came on quick – Vietnam and crystal meth. I went to Orchard Hill Kindergarten Farm School. Now Oak Forest […]

Relative Freedom

By Bert Stabler — I am an art teacher at Bowen High School, a neighborhood school on 89th Street in the South Chicago neighborhood. I have full-time employment, health benefits, and a reasonable amount of autonomy. What’s more, I respect and appreciate the people I work with—both adults and adolescents—and I have found and integrated artwork that reflects my […]

Mapping Beverly to Blue Island

By Jayne Hileman — In 25 years of commuting to work on the far southwest side of Chicago, I have seen many "points of interest": bungalows, housing projects, and McMansions; public and relatively public recreational spaces; industrial sites, often abandoned; disappearing rural spaces; and beautiful parks and forest preserves. All of these are built on land once lined by […]

Steel Shavings

By James Lane — Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory? Think about it, friends. It’s not just a possibility. It is a certainty! —Jean Shepherd, 1975.   Or perhaps not, thanks to the life’s work of another great Calumet Region writer and raconteur, James Lane, Indiana University Northwest Professor Emeritus of History. In […]

Somebody Had To Do It

By Rebecca Zorach — On July 31, 2009, a group gathered at Anthony Rayson’s home in Monee, IL, to discuss their work as activists in the South Suburbs. What follows is an edited version of selections from the interview. Comments by Marimonica Murray, George Ochsenfeld, Jessie Cunningham, Anthony Rayson, Eraina Dunn, and Mike Plotski, gathered by Rebecca Zorach. The […]


By Dinah Ramirez — The "Tea Party" gatherings that have besieged town-hall meetings have denounced government abuses, and have gotten huge amounts of media attention. Meanwhile, South Side Chicago residents are, in a quieter way, also protesting government abuses: handouts to private enterprise at the expense of poor and working-class people. An attempt at a stopgap solution to revenue […]

Bird Blind

By Mara Naselli — Remembering betrays Nature, Because yesterday’s Nature is not Nature, What’s past is nothing and remembering is not seeing. Fly, bird, fly away; teach me to disappear. —Alberto Caeiro   On the far south side of Chicago in the Calumet River Valley, once a thriving industrial engine of steel production, the greatest in the world and […]

Southeast Environmental Task Force

By Carrie Breitbach — Hegewisch is part of the city of Chicago, but has the feel of a small Midwestern town, with quiet wide streets and small single-family homes. The neighborhood is several miles east of I-94, the Bishop Ford, off the 130th Street exit and across the Calumet River that bridges Lake Calumet and Wolf Lake. The trip […]

Section II

By AREA — The articles and images in this section track movement between center and periphery. They also analyze broader trends and systems. They map significant sites. They show how inequality in the Chicago region expresses itself spatially. Who and what gets to go where and when? Who’s displaced from the spaces where others circulate freely? And how […]

The Making and Remaking of Urban Peripheries

By Andrew Greenlee — What are urban peripheries? Where do they come from? How do they get where they are? This article suggests that urban peripheries are created and sustained through policy decisions that regulate, punish, exclude, pollute, and ignore populations with little political or economic power. By "urban periphery" we mean the under- resourced geographical areas on the […]

Three World Systems Diagrams

By Claire Pentecost — World systems theory or world systems analysis is shorthand for a body of historical analysis, social science perspectives, and socially engaged research which takes capitalism as a centuries-long system. This system came to strength in Europe and then expanded to include much of the world under the European and then the American imperial ages, eventually […]

Precious Cargo in the Great Lakes

By Paul Lloyd Sargent — image coming soon

Ishpeming and Gary

By Laurie Palmer — This article is excerpted from a chapter of Eating the Earth, a work in progress about industrial mineral extraction and material resources in the U.S.   Circling Chicago, single economy Rust Belt cities and towns bend, shudder, and collapse, some rising again on their elbows under the flag of service or tourism economies. Deindustrialization in […]

The Quiet Giant

By Quincy Saul — A metropolis of many worlds, Chicago in the summer is at the height of its glory. The Daley empire presides over a diverse equilibrium of populism and plutocracy. While the city enchants politicians and business people with Olympian dreams, its center enthralls no less the leftists and revolutionaries who gather for demonstrations and conferences. A […]

A Geography of Illinois Wheat

By Sarah Kavage — image coming soon

Inside and outside the system

By Gloria Natalia Ortiz — Gloria Ortiz speaks with Rebecca Zorach for AREA about her work on immigration issues. Ortiz works both inside and outside the "nonprofit industrial complex," as a staff member of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and as a member of Chicago Otra. She explains problems posed by the peripheral geography of immigration detention facilities, […]

Three Part Path

By Mike Wolf — The sustenance and life we call ours are born out of the land by one another. Our culture consists of our relationship to the landscape. The landscape is always people too. Though once might have been enough, I’ve taken two pilgrimages—two long walks of about 150 miles—with the idea that carrying my own body through […]

Chicago’s Public Transportation System and Residential Patterns

By Sean Noonan — The Daley Administration is pursuing a global city-building agenda. This agenda involves the use of government resources to transform city infrastructure and services in order to attract global investment and world travelers. Examples of global city-building practices and policies include creating tourist spectacles (Millennium Park), attempting to attract world events (the Olympics), and redeveloping central […]

Outcast Islands

By AREA Staff — For everyone who cares to go. Join the trip when you can and leave when you must.—from a Reconciliation Trip flyer, 1933   It’s the early 1930s. You’re a sociology student at the University of Chicago or Northwestern, desiring firsthand experience of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. What are you to do? You […]

The Legacy of Daniel Burnham

By Ashley Weger — Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s hearts.   Daniel Burnham has become reanimated as a paramount historical and cultural figure of Chicago with the centennial commemoration of his 1909 Plan for Chicago. From the Museum of Science & Industry’s recent recreation of the 1893 Fair, to the dozens of museum […]

Native Resurgence

By Nicholas Brown — We seem to be driving in circles. Patches of sunlight on the gravel road betray no evidence of the direction of travel through this dense, lush forest. It looks a bit like a coastal Oregon landscape; the light tinged a watery green as it passes through the thick canopy of tall pines. These tribal access […]

Vicky’s Story

By Dale Asis — "O sige (OK), make sure you all know how to avoid foreclosures and how to take advantage of President Obama’s first time home buyers stimulus program, any questions from anyone sitting in the back?" Vicky Silvano points to the back of the room. She’s handing out information to community members attending a recent workshop in […]

The Symmetry of Center and Periphery

By Lorenza Perelli — The power of American capitalism projects an image of itself on the minds of people residing both on the margin and at center of the empire. As for many others at the edges of the world, when I close my eyes, I can picture New York City. This stands in contrast to the provincialism of […]


By AREA Staff — A hobo playing a pipe organ sounds like the start of a ghost story, but there was Professor Luther the Jet pulling out the stops in the Greenstone Church in what’d been the company town of Pullman. In 1882, George Mortimer Pullman had shelled out $3,500 for the Bears & Turner organ, a modest investment […]

Pedagogy of the Periphery

By AREA — photos coming soon

Schoolyard Phantoms

By Wade Tillett — My co-teacher brought in a newspaper clipping. Earlier in the year, students and parents from Chicago had taken schoolbuses up to New Trier in suburban Winnetka to try to register for school there. Predictably, they were denied. What was not as predictable was that a group of New Trier parents and students had assembled to […]

Doing Urban Studies from the Suburbs

By Rebecca Zorach — Steve Macek talks with AREA about the interdisciplinary minor in Urban and Suburban Studies that he coordinates at North Central College, what suburban students learn about when visiting Chicago as part of the program’s "Chicago term," and issues facing the suburbs now.   Where is North Central located?   North Central is located in Naperville. […]

To Close the City-Suburb Divide

By Carol Ng-He — Roosevelt University takes pride in its ownership of the historic Auditorium Building located on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. As an instructor at the school teaching mostly at the Schaumburg campus, I have come to learn that few Roosevelt students who live and work in the Chicago suburban areas have visited their school’s landmark facility […]

Please Bring Your Cell Phone to Art Class

By Nicole Marroquin — Students at Little Village Lawndale High School (LVLHS) at 31st and Kostner navigate and transgress borders and boundaries daily. The school intentionally draws from the distinctly different communities Little Village and North Lawndale, with the purpose of actively working to unite these working-class neighborhoods based on the struggles they share. The divide between them is […]

Section III

By AREA — In this section we offer reports, profiles, histories, and reflections on places, movements, personal histories, and sociopolitical positions outside the center of population, the main currents of attention, or conventional experience. This may be another way of saying that Chicago (and any big urban center) is nothing if not a dense collection of edges, each […]

Teardowns in a North Shore Suburb

By Larry Shure — The tension between the public interest and private property rights was front and center in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs during the housing boom of the early 2000s. These small towns and cities (including Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park and Lake Forest) are historic commuter suburbs that benefited from easy transit to Chicago while […]

Suburban Homelessness

By Shannon Beaudry — I began my academic research on suburban homelessness almost a year ago, but my practical experience began when I was fourteen. My parents’ business closed, and that was followed by several economic and health crises, leaving us first bouncing from one relative’s home to another, then waiting to see if the tips from my mother’s […]

The Nazis in Skokie

By Joey Pizzolato — In the fall of 1976, Frank Collin, the leader of the National Socialist Party of America (NSPA, or Nazis), was denied his request to hold a demonstration in Marquette Park. The Chicago Park District stipulated that the NSPA had to put up $250,000 in insurance—a sum they could not obtain. [1] The events that followed […]

Building a White Belt

By Brian Schultz — The history of racism in the United States infuses all areas of American life. The spaces in which we live retain this history, and even the most familiar amenities are implicated in the racial practices of our nation. Ideas about "good" and "bad" neighborhoods reveal tacit aspects of our culture. We explain these disparities in […]

Chicago and Its Suburbs

By Ashley Weger — Compiled by Ashley Weger with Chuck Lee   1868: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux begin planning on Riverside, a model for middle class suburb building.   1880s George Pullman begins building his company-owned town on the city’s South Side; 1889: Joseph Sears begins building Kenilworth, Chicago’s most wealthy suburb, established with a simple mantra: […]

Introducing the Just Farming Small Farmers Confederation

By Daniel Tucker — Several years ago Chicago-area attorney Joyce Mims offered land she owned, Hidden Haven Farm, an hour and a half from the city, to two different agriculture initiatives based in Chicago. The two projects grew out of different contexts, both with a commitment to social justice. One was God’s Gang, initiated by Carolyn Thomas, along with […]

Victories to Celebrate

By Nicolas Lampert — The campaign to stop the proposed Crandon Mine from poisoning the Wolf River in northeastern Wisconsin is one of the great recent environmental victories in North America. It is also one of the least known struggles. For 28 years (1976-2003), activists in Wisconsin organized to prevent a zinc and copper mine near the Wolf River. […]

The Brownlands

By Alex Yablon — In the spring of 2008, some college acquaintances invited me to a party in what they called "the Brownlands," a weeded-over expanse south of Roosevelt Road, between Clark Street and the Chicago River. A bonfire—easily visible from Roosevelt’s elevated sidewalk or any of the nearby South Loop condo towers—marked the location of the party within […]

Not for Sale

By Chase Bracamontes — The term community can be interpreted in different ways. Sometimes it defines a neighborhood based on specified perimeters, it can also stand for a movement created by a particular group of people and it can also stand for a unity among those who share a common experience. The No Se Vende campaign of Chicago’s historically […]

History as a Periphery

By Ashley Weger — Among other tenets, AREA Chicago is committed to "gathering and sharing information and histories" about Chicago. My interest in dialogue about history propelled me to contact Forgotten Chicago, a group whose website www.forgottenchicago.com had intrigued me. Conceived in their high school explorations of the city, Forgotten Chicago is chiefly the product of the labor of […]

Beyond the Borders

By Donna Kiser — Dead he lay among his books. The peace of God was in his looks. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ultima Thule*   Longfellow’s words speak to the way this project was born. It is our belief that used bookstores are enchanted places where stories reverberate between the authors and the many hands that have held them, human […]

Cold Storage on the Periphery

By Laurie Jo Reynolds — The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has used the term homo sacer, derived from ancient Roman law, to describe groups or individuals judged so valueless that they are given the status of non-person. His modern examples are political refugees, homeless persons, and Jews in Nazi extermination camps, but his theory also helps us recognize current institutions […]

The Left vs. Disability

By Beth G — Disability is a story of the creation of peripheries: physical, social, and economic boundaries in cities, cultural practices, and workplaces. Disability remains on the margins of both mainstream society and social movement struggles, even though it’s the only form of oppression that we may all experience as we age. A "social model" [1] of disability […]

Beyond Treatment

By AREA Staff — If someone told you that if Black America were a free-standing country it would rank 16th in HIV infection rates, would you be shocked? What if I told you that in some states, rates of new infections and prevalence among African Americans parallel those observed in sub-Saharan Africa? The AIDS Foundation reports that while African […]

What Does Peripheral Feminism Mean to You?

By Alexis Finch — As a way of exploring my own complex thoughts on the subject, I sent through my various email networks an open call for answers to the question "What does peripheral feminism mean to you?" By "peripheral," we mean "outside the textbook" – what you know about feminism from people and experiences. From your own life. […]

No More Center, No More Margin

By Matthias Regan — A neoliberal specter haunts poetry today. This thesis is too much for a few lines to convey but hopefully my rough periplum suffices to sketch our new vices and their devices. Art & politics, according to Jacques Rancière[1] lend to each other only that which they share: the parceling out of collective imaginations, the figuring […]

Eyes in the Back of My Head

By Mary Patten — Judith Clark was arrested on Oct. 20, 1981, after an attempted robbery of a Brinks truck in Nyack, New York that left a Brinks guard and two policemen dead. Accused of being one of the "get away drivers," she was indicted on three counts of second-degree murder. She was found guilty, sentenced to three consecutive […]

AREA #9 Recommended Readings

By AREA — James E. Boyle, Speculation and the Chicago Board of Trade (New York: MacMillan, 1921). Brains, Brilliancy, Bohemia: Art & Politics in Jazz-Age Chicago, documents from the Dill Pickle Club and other radical activity, compiled by Marc Moscato, www.marcmoscato.com Mark Changizi, The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human […]


By AREA — This issue of AREA was released on November 1, 2009 at the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago. 5,000 copies were printed.   Edited by Dan S. Wang and Rebecca Zorach   Designed by Jerome Grand   Founding Editor Daniel Tucker   Contributing Editor Mairead Case   Interns Sarah Smizz, Ashley Weger   Project Advisors Martha Boyd, Carrie Breitbach, Naomi […]