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December 1998
368 pages  

7 x 9 1/2
9780822956761
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A Town Without Steel
Envisioning Homestead
Modell, Judith, Brodsky, Charlee
In 1986, with little warning, the USX Homestead Works closed. Thousands of workers who depended on steel to survive were left without work. A Town Without Steel looks at the people of Homestead as they reinvent their views of household and work and place in this world.

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Judith Modell is professor of anthropology, history, and art at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the author of Ruth Benedict and Kinship with Strangers, as well as a number of theoretical and methodological articles.
Charlee Brodsky, a professor of photography at Carnegie Mellon University, is the coauthor of Pittsburgh Revealed: Photographs Since 1850, A Town Without Steel: Envisioning Homestead, and, with Jennifer Matesa, Navel-Gazing: The Days and Nights of a Mother in the Making. Brodsky and Matesa have both won numerous awards for their work, and both live in Pittsburgh.
"In 1986 after three generations grew used to reaping the benefits of well-paying, unionized jobs, the mills closed. They were razed soon after that, leaving a vast empty expanse down by the river and a vast empty hole in the economy of the region. As morale plummeted, so did the constitution of the town, which brings us to today's situation: Homestead, a town without steel, struggling for a new identity and a chance to survive intact. . . . The hundred -year journey undergone by the people of homestead is grippingly chronicled in documentary fashion by Judith Modell, who spoke to several dozen residents in this town of 42 churches. From their running commentary, she pieces together a saga both heroic and tragic: The people who built the American way of life suffer the most from its consequences. . . . There are probably plenty of other books chronicling the history of the Pittsburgh region and its famous, now-defunct industry, but A Town Without Steel is probably one of the few to do so with a personal touch and the intelligence of an academic source book." repeated quote: “There are probably plenty of other books chronicling the history of the Pittsburgh region and its famous, now-defunct industry, but A Town Without Steel is probably one of the few to do so with a personal touch and the intelligence of an academic sourcesbook. After reading it I felt as if I'd taken a whole course at Pitt on the subject and learned something without paying for all the credits. With such enlightenment at hand, A Town Without Steel is a must-read for anyone interested in the history our region and won't remain unperused on anyone's coffee table for long.”—In Pittsburgh Newsweekly, 12/16/98--IN PITTSBURGH, Dec 16, 1998

"Looks at a community centered around the steel industry and its attempts to cope with massive unemployment of the mid-1980s and its effects on individuals, families, and the town. Interviews with 45 men and women shed light on the ways in which the mill closing affected the town across age, gender, and racial lines, and stark b&w photos depict the social landscape and the town's residents." --Reference & Research Book News, February 1999

"Carnegie Mellon University's Judith Modell (writer) and Chalee Brodsky (photographer) have interesting insights in picking apart their interviewees' perceptions, contrasting them with others' and with other aspects of the historical record. And there are some dramatic views of the change that "deindustrialization" has brought, along with wry comparisons with earlier studies of Homestead's rising industrialization, and excellent attention to racial disparities and problems."--Upfront “Coming of Age in Homestead”

In this rich book Judith Modell interviews the men and women of the “steel valley.” Through their own words she records their agony, their hopes, and most of all their courage; and Charlee Brodsky’s photographs reveal their streets, their homes, their faces and their souls. The more we read, and the more we look, the more deeply we tap into the vulnerability of ordinary people in our wolrld of merciless economic and technological change. But every page of this evocative and powerful book also reminds us of the opposite, that the strength of ordinary people and their sense of community are the best resource we have for the construction of recovery.” *** —David Lewis, Carnegie-Mellon University

“The author of A Town Without Steel has an uncanny ability to integrate several voices; including those of the observer, the interviewer and the social analyst. The seamless quality of the book is one of its most attractive qualities. It is especially commendable that the author has presented the social science and history in such a way as to invite the general reader to her table.”—Douglas Harper, Duquesne University

“This is a fine book. It will be read by professionals in a variety of fields: historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and those involved in policy issues. The additions of Brodsky’s photographs can only add to the sense of immediacy conveyed by Modell’s superb handling of her interview material.” —Eugene Levy, Carnegie Mellon University

“A Town Without Steel is about what happens about that center of gravity that has imploded. It’s an intimate and revealing portrait of the myriad ways in which people coped or failed to cope with working in steel after it collapsed. . . . Complex, nuanced, yet analytical and grounded in solid historical account, A Town Without Steel is a model worth considering for anyone seeking to understand how people convey their sense of past.”---Rob Ruck, Journal of Social History, Fall 2000

“It is a wonderful example of how one can use the synthesis of photographs and interviews to understand the evolution of a landscape, an environment, and a community. If you want to know why scrapbooks and field notes are important, read this book.”---Barbara Seels, Journal of Visual Literacy, 20. 1

“Modell and Brodsky effectively integrate and anthropological and photographic perspective to envision a steel community before and after the mill closing. Their cultural approach illuminates the pivotal roles of family, church, and neighborhood and highlight gender and race elements.”---Irwin M. Marcus, Pennsylvania History, Spring 2000

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Photographs by Charlee Brodsky In 1986, with little warning, the USX Homestead Works closed. Thousands of workers who depended on steel to survive were left without work. A Town Without Steel looks at the people of Homestead as they reinvent their views of household and work and place in this world. The book details the modifications and revisions of domestic strategies in a public crisis. In some ways unique, and in some ways typical of American industrial towns, the plight of Homestead sheds light on social, cultural, and political developments of the late twentieth century. In this anthropological and photographic account of a town facing the crisis of deindustrialization, A Town Without Steel focuses on families. Reminiscent of Margaret Byington and Lewis Hine’s approach in Homestead, Charlee Brodsky’s photographs document the visual dimension of change in Homestead. The mill that dominated the landscape transformed to a vast, empty lot; a crowded commercial street turns into a ghost town; and an abundance of well-kept homes become an abandoned street of houses for sale. The individual narratives and family snapshots, Modell’s interpretations, and Brodsky’s photographs all evoke the tragedy and the resilience of a town whose primary source of self-identification no longer exists.
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