Postville: USA: Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America
Mark A. Grey, Michele Devlin, Aaron Goldsmith. GemmaMedia, $14.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-934848-64-7
One of the effects of globalization is to bring vast numbers of diverse peoples to traditionally homogenous small towns almost as easily as urban centers. Postville, Iowa, is such a town, attracting newcomers from 50 nations looking for work. Until 2008, when government immigration enforcement moved in, the town seemed to be a successful, harmonious experiment in social adaptation. Postville's financial and social success stemmed largely from a bond with Agriprocessors, the Kosher meatpacking plant that employed much of the town. The powerful sense of unity common to factory towns overcame differences in the population, even among its white residents. In May, 2008, for the sake of political points, the government made an example of Agriprocessors, arresting every undocumented worker-a full 20 percent of the town's population-and dismantling its business. In the process, it unmade the town. The authors build their case study around interviews with residents, putting together a picture of multiculturalism at work; tellingly, however, the authors (an anthropologist, a public health professor, and a city councilman) avoid the question of immigrant exploitation and corporate greed-indeed, the lack of testimony from undocumented laborers themselves speak volumes.
Reviewed on: 08/31/2009