Society for the Anthropology of North America
Oral Presentation Session
Reading, Pennsylvania was one of the wealthiest cities in the US in the 1920s, but is now one of the poorest. It is a partly deindustrialize city in the US rustbelt, where an organized, industrial working class has declined since the 1970s, while new immigrant workers have repopulated the city. Reading now has a majority (approximately 80%) Latinx population. This paper looks at organizing, identity-making and alliances in this local context, and in the national context of the Trump presidency. The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork with three organizations: a Latinx immigrant rights group, a suburban group active in the electoral arena, and an environmental organization, all of whom work in coordination on local, state and national campaigns. How do these groups organize their own memberships to articulate values and moralities within and against capitalist processes? Which contradictions in daily life and social reproduction cohere as core issues, which fall by the wayside? How do they confront disinvestment and devaluation of the city of Reading and imagine new values, practices and relations? What are the “class compasses” of these articulations, contestations and alliances?