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Dialing In On East St. Louis: Jennifer F. Hamer’s Ethnography Abandoned In The Heartland

3025 words - 12 pages

Jennifer F. Hamer’s ethnography, Abandoned in the Heartland, paints the disorderly behaviors and hardships of the inhabitants of East St. Louis that struggle to “make-ends-meet” so to say, with the diminutive source of income they or their families have and the petite assistance they receive as a whole from the government. Unlike many other popular case studies that contain similar findings that closely examine the urban cores in explicit regions of the United States, Hamer’s case study assesses the quick downfall of East St. Louis, once a flourishing suburbia post World War I, that now struggles to provide a quality standard of living, stable jobs and a multitude of other aspects that allow a suburb to thrive. The city saw its peak of 82,000 residents in 1950. As industries began to leave behind the city and its dependent residents in 1970, East St. Louis quickly began to spiral downward in not only the number of residents but in job availability as well. The city now stands at a diminishing 30,000 people.
Hamer explains in the first chapter that the city of East St. Louis was never intentionally “designed with the capacity to serve residential men, women, and their families” (39). While examining St. Louis, it is clear that both St. Louis has a dependent relationship with East St. Louis. The initial blueprint of East St. Louis was a commercial and industrial suburb that would help build up the initial industrial mindset and allow the city to prosper as a commercial hub. Because of this intention, the city quickly became a place where all industries thrived and prospered. Its abundance of untapped resources strategically located transportation hub placed East St. Louis as city in demand. After World War I, East St. Louis became an attraction to Black southern workers. However, after corporations disinvested in the city and companies that occupied space there, East St. Louis was left with nearly one hundred and eighty million dollars in debt and very little jobs to support the ninety-nine percent African American community. The city itself was quickly becoming what Hamer describes as “washbasin” or “trash heap” (Hamer 39).
Hamer’s claims throughout the book regarding diminishing suburban life, jobs, hustle and single parenting roles tie to the information that was acquired throughout the course. Compared to Eitzen book, In Conflict and Order, Hamer puts information regarding poverty, jobs, race and class into a different perspective. Rather than primarily statistical information and stating that if if this takes place, then generally this will be the consequence, Hamer displays qualitative information with a personal touch to the information while adding in statistical information in order to support her claims regarding East St. Louis and the travesties it faces as a whole. While learning the different characteristics of race, class, gender, family and many other sociological topics throughout the course it was primarily displayed in a...

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