The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life

Elijah Anderson, Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-07163-4
Yale sociology professor Anderson (Code of the Street) takes the reader on an ethnographic walking tour of Philadelphia to observe how city dwellers interact across racial lines. He attends particularly to the "cosmopolitan canopy"—public settings like parks, malls, town squares that maintain civil and comfortable interactions between diverse populations. Anderson moves then to those areas where the canopy breaks down (the workplace, public transportation). Anderson's nuanced treatment of "the social dynamics of racial inequality" and his precise observations (the politics of eye contact, for example), while rooted in scholarship, are uncommonly readable: snippets from his journals and sketches of neighborhood habitués offer immediate pleasure, and the book is a people watcher's delight. And while Anderson doesn't gloss over how prevalent and pernicious racism remains in America—"There comes a time in the life of every African American, regardless of how high he or she has risen in society, when he or she is reminded of his or her place as a black man or woman"—his study allows a cautious optimism that "the canopy offers a taste of how inclusive and civil social relationships could become." (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/17/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-393-34051-8
Open Ebook - 318 pages - 978-0-393-08072-8
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