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  • Alfonso Morales, Jane Addams, and Liberty Hyde Bailey:Models of Democratic Research
  • Lisa Heldke

back in about 1984 or 1985, when I'd been in graduate school for a couple of years at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, I started hanging around with three chemists who shared a house. They were colleagues of my roommate, a chemistry grad student. One of them, no kidding, was named Lloyd A. Bumm, who would always introduce himself by saying, "My name is the best joke I know." Lloyd was a quirky, curious guy who often explored unusual places around the City, unlike the typical chemistry grad student. For instance, he frequently would head into Chicago on Sunday mornings to go to this crazy street market he knew about. He invited me to go with him one weekend; he was looking for a power supply, whatever the heck that was. "I know a place we can have Polish sausages for lunch," he said. "I'm in," I said.

And that's how I ended up at the Maxwell Street Market. Lloyd did not find a power source that day—which is not to say that there wasn't one to be had. There was, but the price was wrong. No worries; he'd come back another time to look. Lloyd went there pretty often and has fond, vivid memories of the place. In reply to a recent query I sent him about how he started going to Maxwell Street, he wrote, "I've always liked junk markets. Somehow I went there with [my first grad school roommate]. We bought a case of grapefruit for three dollars, threw out the moldy ones in the parking lot and split the rest." He remembers the big luxury cars, whose occupants would "try to do all their shopping without getting out of the car. Which was utterly absurd because the street was wall to wall people." He thinks fondly of the knives he acquired there, and still uses: "Think commercial knives given a new life." And he remembers the burn barrels, around which people would stand on cold days: "I recall one cold day someone was burning a plastic chair."

I only went back to the Market once or twice with Lloyd; I wouldn't have ventured there alone. It was an intense place, and it made me nervous—I [End Page 55] was a fairly rigid young person who preferred the L (Chicago rail system) to buses because I could tell exactly where the trains were going and when they were going to stop. Who is in charge here? How can you find anything in this tangled up mess? Are those hubcaps stolen? Is that polish sausage stand inspected regularly?

I never "got" Maxwell Street. There are many reasons for this. For starters, I was a white woman who had spent very little time up to that point thinking about her own race and her own race privilege, and Maxwell Street was a multiracial, multicultural place in which (in my memory, at least) I was a racial minority. (Just for the record, I have no reason to believe my memory on that point is reliable. I was in that stage of racial awareness you read about in studies—the stage in which white people start to think we are in the minority when we comprise anything less than 75% of a gathering.) Then, too, I was a goody-two-shoes denizen of small, tidy midwestern towns with noise ordinances and lawn ordinances, who, two years into living in Chicago, was still overwhelmed by a crowded L platform. To me, Maxwell Street was as hectic as an L platform at rush hour, on which all the people were either selling or buying something noisy, messy, smelly, or dangerous. I couldn't release my hold on my own conventionality, my own sense of what order and organization look like, long enough to even consider the possibility that this place had an order and organization of its own.

Where I could not see past disorder and potential food poisoning, Professor Morales identifies "desire, relationship, and order emerg[ing] to reconcile potential enemies and produce law that complement[s] interpersonal relationships...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6489
Print ISSN
1930-7365
Pages
pp. 55-62
Launched on MUSE
2019-03-13
Open Access
No
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