Making Life Work: Racial Capitalism, Black Families, and the Poultry Capital of the World


ACLS Fellowship Program




“Making Life Work” asks how Black workers, their multigenerational “poultry families,” and broader communities experience poultry processing work in North Georgia. This subjective starting place grounds longer histories and ongoing struggles over the industry’s future to analyze how anti-Black racism structures the global production and consumption of cheap chicken. This book develops from critical archival research and a multiyear ethnography of a six-county region in Northeast Georgia. “Making Life Work” first challenges how scholars, journalists, and labor advocates narrate this work, not as an extraordinary case of labor exploitation isolated to the plant floor but rather as one site among many in which Black women make life work. These other sites help structure the book’s chapter sequence and include the home, prison, unemployment office, and occasionally other sites of low wage work. Second, “Making Life Work” locates in Black women’s everyday practices a politics of refusal that challenges the overall conditions and valorization of work itself on and off the line. Historically, the book maps practices of refusal across the archive, from Black rural women unwilling to accept USDA instruction around poultry husbandry to spontaneous walkouts.