Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community

University of Chicago Press
1
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In a powerful, revealing portrait of city life, Anderson explores the dilemma of both blacks and whites, the underclass and the middle class, caught up in the new struggle not only for common ground—prime real estate in a racially changing neighborhood—but for shared moral community. Blacks and whites from a variety of backgrounds speak candidly about their lives, their differences, and their battle for viable communities.

"The sharpness of his observations and the simple clarity of his prose recommend his book far beyond an academic audience. Vivid, unflinching, finely observed, Streetwise is a powerful and intensely frightening picture of the inner city."—Tamar Jacoby, New York Times Book Review

"The book is without peer in the urban sociology literature. . . . A first-rate piece of social science, and a very good read."—Glenn C. Loury, Washington Times
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4.0
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 9, 2013
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Pages
283
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ISBN
9780226098944
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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An acclaimed sociologist illuminates the public life of an American city, offering a major reinterpretation of the racial dynamics in America. Following his award-winning work on inner-city violence, Code of the Street, sociologist Elijah Anderson introduces the concept of the “cosmopolitan canopy”—the urban island of civility that exists amidst the ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves where segregation is the norm. Under the cosmopolitan canopy, diverse peoples come together, and for the most part practice getting along. Anderson’s path-breaking study of this setting provides a new understanding of the complexities of present-day race relations and reveals the unique opportunities here for cross-cultural interaction.

Anderson walks us through Center City Philadelphia, revealing and illustrating through his ethnographic fieldwork how city dwellers often interact across racial, ethnic, and social borders. People engage in a distinctive folk ethnography. Canopies operating in close proximity create a synergy that becomes a cosmopolitan zone. In the vibrant atmosphere of these public spaces, civility is the order of the day. However, incidents can arise that threaten and rend the canopy, including scenes of tension involving borders of race, class, sexual preference, and gender. But when they do—assisted by gloss—the resilience of the canopy most often prevails. In this space all kinds of city dwellers—from gentrifiers to the homeless, cabdrivers to doormen—manage to co-exist in the urban environment, gaining local knowledge as they do, which then helps reinforce and spread tolerance through contact and mutual understanding.

With compelling, meticulous descriptions of public spaces such as 30th Street Station, Reading Terminal Market, and Rittenhouse Square, and quasi-public places like the modern-day workplace, Anderson provides a rich narrative account of how blacks and whites relate and redefine the color line in everyday public life. He reveals how eating, shopping, and people-watching under the canopy can ease racial tensions, but also how the spaces in and between canopies can reinforce boundaries. Weaving colorful observations with keen social insight, Anderson shows how the canopy—and its lessons—contributes to the civility of our increasingly diverse cities.
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