Global Heartland

Global Heartland

Displaced Labor, Transnational Lives, and Local Placemaking
Faranak Miraftab
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/07/2016
Format: Paperback 40 b&w illus., 7 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-01934-9
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Global Heartland is the account of diverse, dispossessed, and displaced people brought together in a former sundown town in Illinois. Recruited to work in the local meat-processing plant, African Americans, Mexicans, and West Africans re-create the town in unexpected ways. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in the US, Mexico, and Togo, Faranak Miraftab shows how this workforce is produced for the global labor market; how the displaced workers’ transnational lives help them stay in these jobs; and how they negotiate their relationships with each other across the lines of ethnicity, race, language, and nationality as they make a new home. Beardstown is not an exception but an example of local-global connections that make for local development. Focusing on a locality in a non-metropolitan region, this work contributes to urban scholarship on globalization by offering a fresh perspective on politics and materialities of placemaking.

  • Winner: Davidoff Book Award, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)
  • Winner: Global & Transnational Sociology section Book Award, American Sociological Association (ASA)
  • Finalist: C. Wright Mills Book Award, Society for Study of Social Problems (SSSP)

Author Bio

Faranak Miraftab is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Women’s Empowerment: Participation in Shelter Strategies at the Community Level in Urban Informal Settlements and editor(with David Wilson and Ken Salo) of Cities and Inequalities in a Global and Neoliberal World, (with Neema Kudva) Cities of the Global South Reader, and (with Victoria A. Beard and Chris Silver) Planning and Decentralization: Contested Spaces for Public Action in the Global South.


“Faranak Miraftab draws on ethnographic research in Beardstown, Mexico, and Togo to analyze a space that is often overlooked in scholarship on globalization. Tracing the global processes that produce displaced workers and the social relationships that maintain them, she offers a fresh perspective on place and placemaking.”

“"[V]ery accessible, and yet [it] teaches us an original way to think about the issues of globalization, labor and work, provincialism, and cultural-social reproduction within and across ethnic communities. . . . [E]xtremely readable, cogent, beautifully told, and thought-provoking." ”
 — Michael Goldman, author of Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalizati

“The depth and breadth of this book show it was a decade in the making. Miraftab has carried out a rich multi-sited ethnography to help us understand the transbordering factors and relations that produce and revitalize Beardstown, a meatpacking town in Illinois. ”
 — International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

“In Faranak Miraftab’s book, Global Heartland, the life of the meatpacker is vividly brought to life. Miraftab studies the lived-realities of meatpacking laborers to understand how the industry has influenced the economic revitalization and social transformation of the small, rural community of Beardstown, Illinois, while arguing that the thriving economy and cultural diversity successes of the area obscure larger narratives about the unequal global ties that enabled these changes.”
 — Antipode

“Faranak Miraftab’s powerful and, at times, very personal study of the meat-packing industry in Beardstown, Illinois, offers an exemplary analysis of the relational character of place. The book challenges us to think seriously about places that are all too often located at the periphery of mainstream urban theory.”
 — AAG Review of Books

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Table of Contents


Part I. Beardstown: A Place in the World
1. Welcome to Porkopolis
2. It All Changed Overnight

Part II. Displaced Labor
3. "Michoacán’s Largest Export is People"
4. "Winning the Lotto in Togo"
5. Detroit: "The First Third World City of the U.S."

Part III. Outsourced Lives
6. Global Restructuring of Social Reproduction

Part IV. We Wanted Workers, We Got People
7. We Wanted Workers
8. We Got People
Conclusion: The Global in my Backyard

Appendix 1: Population and Labor Tables
Appendix 2: Schedule and Profile of Interviewees

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