Who we are is where we are: Making a long-term home in the American Rust Belt, under contract with Columbia University Press.

This book re-envisions the process of deindustrialization typically understood as the largely economic cause of outmigration as a surprising example of the persistence of people in place. Drawing on interviews, ethnography, and historical research from two communities in the American Midwest, this book asks not only how people remain long-term in environmentally and economically precarious landscapes, but why these places continue to matter to those who stay put.

Refereed Journals

2022     “Birdwatchers on the brownfields: Urban parks, active sacrifice zones, and localized strategies for demarginalization.” Environmental Justice.

In the least densely populated neighborhood of Chicago, deindustrial brownfields are being repurposed into sites of outdoor recreation and green spaces. This paper explores the subjective experience of park development on one of these sites, focusing on how the socioeconomic contexts of the neoliberal city creates complex and ambivalent experiences of green space growth. I find that park development on the Southeast Side of Chicago produces feelings of ambivalence rather than uninhibited enthusiasm for new parks and anxiety about negative consequences. I suggest that this ambivalence about deindustrial land uses is characteristic of the neoliberalization of American communities. Given the prolonged disinvestments of deindustrialized cities, certain land use debates neither summon passionate commitment nor vehement resistance simply because they cannot address the accrual of structural social problems at hand.

2021 “Coffee on a Hot Planet: How Climate Change Exacerbates Existing Inequities in the Global Coffee Commodity Chain.” Case Studies in the Environment. (with Katy Viera, Drexel University, ’20–student co-author)

This case study of coffee offers a window into the feedback loops of ecological health, agricultural economies, and social well-being on a quickly-warming planet. Drawing from a review of research across disciplines, we explore three human-driven factors that have increased the risks of loss for coffee producers in the face of climate change. These three characteristics of the coffee commodity chain—geographical consolidation, genetic variation, and market factors—enmesh social, ecological, and economic expectations of coffee as a high-value agricultural product. Considering the impact of climate change on coffee production sheds light on how climate change interacts with preexisting ecological, social, and economic challenges of global, agricultural production.

2020     “Performing transparency, embracing regulations: Corporate framing to mitigate environmental conflicts.” Environmental Sociology, 6:4, 364-374. (with Erik Kojola)

This paper compares two cases of contested mining proposals in the Upper Midwest region of the U.S. to examine how mining companies attempt to respond to opposition and secure regulatory approval. Combining analysis of company documents, regulatory reports, media coverage, and interviews about proposed copper-nickel mining in Minnesota and iron mining in Wisconsin, this paper assesses the discursive framing used by company elites as they seek to mitigate public concerns about environmental risks. We demonstrate how companies use environmental regulations and the scientific information needed for regulatory compliance to circumnavigate environmental conflicts.

2017    ““We made the choice to stick it out”: Negotiating a stable home in the rural, American Rust Belt.” Journal of Rural Studies, 53.

In this article, I aim to shed light on what it means, materially and symbolically, for the rural post-industrial to be at home, with or without jobs.  I define home as a center of significance, a source of negotiated stability in the face of change.  Home is where material embeddedness, socially constructed identities, and familiar, embodied experiences coalesce in a meaningful manner.  To understand community-wide responses to second-generation extractive industry in a place created in the image of a specific industry, we must see enthusiasm for new mining jobs within the broader, historical context of what it means for residents of certain, formerly resource-dependent regions to be at home.

2015     “Keeping the farm in the family name: Patrimonial narratives and negotiations among German-heritage farmers,” Rural Sociology 80(1).

Sociologists tend to view rural culture as an inertial force, committing members to past cultural patterns which, in turn, inform their present courses of action. By emphasizing such cultural stasis, we obscure how members of cultural enclaves negotiate, recommit to, or revise certain cultural traditions. Drawing on interviews I conducted among a small group of German‐heritage farmers in southern Wisconsin, I find that farmers select legal arrangements, entrepreneurial actions, and traditional male succession in order to fulfill the “yeoman” goal of keeping the farm in the family name. I argue that this dialogue between a historically persistent cultural tradition and very present pressures of agricultural production makes a significant contribution to the dynamics of modern rural life.

Book Chapters

2021 “The everyday sociological imagination: Co-creating new knowledge through story and radio,” In the Routledge International Handbook on Public Sociology. L. Hossfeld, B. Kelly, and C. Hossfeld (Editors). Routledge: NY.

There is a nascent sociological imagination in us all. With or without sociological training, everyday people position their individual experiences in broader patterns. If public sociology aims to create knowledge about community-wide social problems, it is best pursued by empowering extant sociological imaginations. I suggest that sociological imaginations emerge from the highly social process of storytelling. Particularly when crises trouble previously sufficient vocabularies, offer insight into how certain groups of people are grappling with change. I call for member participation in identifying effective means of disseminating new knowledge. I demonstrate these approaches in a radio podcast project addended to my dissertation research in a rural Rust Belt community.

2018    “Power, politics and rurality.” In Routledge Companion to Rural Planning. Eds. Mark Scott, Nick Gallent and Menelaos Gkartzios (Editors). Routledge: NY. (with Michael M. Bell)

How do rural people interact with and mediate both horizontal and vertical power structures?  From out-of-touch political priorities to competing regional interests, tensions between external structures and local actors can perpetuate political, economic, and legal disconnections between rural communities and their broader socioeconomic and political contexts. 

Book Reviews

2022     How Green Became Good: Urbanized Nature and the Making of Cities and Citizens, by Hillary Angelo, (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, IL), International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

2022 Milking in the Shadows: Migrants and Mobility in America’s Dairyland, by Julie C. Keller.(Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ), Agriculture and Human Values. (with Kyle McDonald, Drexel Sociology BS, ’22–student co-author)

2017    In the Blood: Understanding America’s Farm Families, by Robert Wuthnow, (Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ), Journal of American Studies 51(2).

Public sociology/in the spotlight

2022 Essay–‘We just like it here’: Identity and community in a Wisconsin former mining town” The Sociological Review Magazine.

2022 Podcast–“Rust Belt Stories.” Pop, the Question: Drexel University Penoni Honors College.

2022 Podcast–“Amanda McMillan Lequieu on Kai Erikson“. Give Theory a Chance.

2022 Blog– “Telling stories of silence: Disappeared industrial infrastructures and narratives of loss in the American Midwest.” University of Luxemburg’s REPAIR blog.

2020 Blog– “Environmental Sociologist Amanda McMillan Lequieu on using case studies in the classroom” University of California Press, Case Studies of the Environment blog.

2020 Essay–Junior Theorist Symposium Conference preview blog, “Theorizing the Absent Object: Industrial Transportation Infrastructure Decline as Narrative Symbol in the American Rust Belt,” Perspectives (Summer 2020). Newsletter of the American Sociological Association’s Theory section.

2018    Essay–with Josh Pacewicz, Shannon Elizabeth Bell, and Colin Jerolmack. “Between Declension and Nostalgia: Bringing a Comparative Historical Gaze to the Logics and Lived Experiences of the American Rust Belt.” Trajectories (Autumn 2018)  Newsletter of the American Sociological Association’s Comparative Historical Sociology section.

2018    Interview–Graduate Student Spotlight, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Community Research and Development Division, Fall 2018 Newsletter

2018    Essay–Housing, Home, and the Sociology of Flammable Landscapes: Reflections on California’s Largest Wildfire. Winter 2018 Newsletter of the American Sociological Association’s Section for Environmental Sociology.

2017    Essay–The Thomas Fire Fans the Flames of Southern California’s Housing Crisis.  The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Culture, Nature, and Environment’s digital magazine, Edge Effects.

2017    Essay and podcast–Love for Home in a Place Industry Left Behind. Radio podcast originally broadcast on WJMS AM Hurley, Wisconsin; rebroadcast on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Culture, Nature, and Environment’s digital magazine, Edge Effects.

2014    Essay–Tastes of Home: Food and Familiarity.  The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Culture, Nature, and Environment’s digital magazine, Edge Effects.