The Region From Below

From June 4 to 14, 2008, a group of people traveled through Illinois
and Wisconsin in search of a Radical Midwest. They looked for evidence
of small town organizing, prison resistance, and perma-cultural
farming-- living right beside agribusiness, supermax prisons, toxic
dumps, christian conservatism and more. They found the reflections of
the city, in the urban migrants who sought a fairer futures on open
land, in production that fuels and feeds the masses and in waste that
is, no doubt, produced by the city. They met with urban and rural
farmers, a citizen's group, a radical filmmaker, a dairy cooperative,
historians, and others.

Cities are intricately tied to their regional outcroppings; they
depend deeply on the land and people around them to produce products
to survive, they export what that do not want to their edge and
beyond. In the Midwest, everything from water to energy is exported
from these regional spaces and creates a dependent infrastructure for
cities. Our region is a site of unevenly distributed resource,
material and human flows. In this way, our cities cannot afford to
ignore these sites of struggle, and indeed, there are struggles out
here. Here is where agribusiness rains chemicals across the land for
ethanol plants to supply cars with 10% of "sustainable" power. Here is
where thousands of men and women are shipped from urban areas to live
20-30 years of their lives in cages. Here is where small communities
muster all the public attention they can to work against corporations
who dump toxic waste and contaminate ground water. If in the city
there is a struggle for autonomy, rights to dissent, and rights to
public spaces, then indeed this struggle bleeds out into the region.
This panel is interested in thinking about the struggles articulated,
beyond the city and into the hinterlands-- spaces that make the city
possible. Here we are growing the idea of the city to a regional
mesh-- intimately tied to small towns, farmlands and former
industrialized sites. We will discuss our own travels and research
through the Midwest that focused on issues of food production, waste
dumps, utopian communities. We will discuss future projects that
intend on adding more points of struggle and celebration to our
undefined map of the Midwest. This panel hopes to engage participants
to think about their region.