Sociology

Black branding in the Cappuccino City

May 10, 2017
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Black branding in the Cappuccino City

Derek Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City, not only offers up an contemporary ethnography of gentrification—DC’s Shaw/U Street district—but also concretizes how we talk about urban displacement in neoliberal late capitalism, centered around the concepts of the “gilded ghetto,” “living the wire,” and the “cappuccino city.”  A cappuccino is basically a cup of coffee with (steamed) milk, but costs nearly double or triple the price, depending on whether or not the espresso bean is artisanal, or if the foam is sculpted into a the shape of a leaf or a heart. In Hyra’s cappuccino city, our black inner-city neighborhoods, under pressure from the gig economy, gutted social programs, and real estate investors luring white millennials, undergo enormous transformations and become racially “lighter” and more expensive by the year. You can listen to Hyra’s recent appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show here, or read an excerpt from a Washington Post profile after the jump. *** “Black branding” describes how developers and other mostly white business interests actively promoted Shaw’s historic black identity as a marketing strategy to attract white renters and buyers. Their success helped tip the neighborhood’s demographics from 70 percent black in 1970 to 30 percent in 2010. The Shaw/U Street area was an ideal candidate for . . .

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Personal Branding is blasé auto-fan fiction and other notes on the new economy

April 7, 2017
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Personal Branding is blasé auto-fan fiction and other notes on the new economy

“Personal branding” seems the provenance dystopian fiction—equal parts Idiocracy and neoliberal end game, one would think its merely a belabored joke about the individual in late capitalism, rather than a facts-on-the-ground-style employment strategy. “You are your brand!,” isn’t a line from 1984, though: it’s part and parcel of almost any TedTalk on the job market, despite the fact that—according to anthropologist Ilana Gershon, whose recent book Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today is profiled in the Quartz review excerpted below—it rarely results in, um, an actual job. Read more from the Quartz piece after the jump. *** Gershon, a professor of anthropology at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, spent a year interviewing and observing job seekers and employers in Silicon Valley and around the US. Her new book, Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today explains that branding is largely a boondoggle advanced by inspirational speakers and job trainers. It doesn’t help people get jobs. . . . According to Gershon, the concept of personal branding developed over the last 30 years as the concept of work itself became more precarious. Union membership has contracted. The number of hours in the . . .

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John M. Eason, Big House on the Prairie, and the rural prison boom

March 31, 2017
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John M. Eason, Big House on the Prairie, and the rural prison boom

Working crucial arguments from his book Big House on the Prairie down the line, John M. Eason takes on the rise of the rural prison industry—and its role as impediment to criminal justice reform—for the Conversation; excerpt after the jump. *** As I explain in my book, “Big House on the Prairie,” the number of prisons in the U.S. swelled between 1970 and 2000, from 511 to nearly 1,663. Prisons constructed during that time cover nearly 600 square miles, an area roughly half the size of Rhode Island. More than 80 percent of these facilities are operated by states, approximately 10 percent are federal facilities and the rest are private. The prison boom is a massive public works program that has taken place virtually unnoticed because roughly 70 percent of prisons were built in rural communities. Most of this prison building has occurred in conservative southern states like Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas. Much of how we think about prison building is clouded by the legacy of racism and economic exploitation endemic to the U.S. criminal justice system. Many feel that prison building is the end product of racist policies and practices, but my research turned up a more complicated relationship. People of color . . .

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[The] Boystown: Jason Orne’s new ethnography

March 24, 2017
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[The] Boystown: Jason Orne’s new ethnography

Aimee Levitt reviewed Jason’s Orne new ethnography Boystown: Sex and Community in Chicago for the Chicago Reader; an excerpt follows below. *** We should be past the need for “gayborhoods,” as Amin Ghaziani argued in his influential 2014 book There Goes the Gayborhood. Don’t areas like Boystown, fun as they are, only remind us of the bad old days? Nope, they’re still necessary, sociologist Jason Orne argues in his new book, also called Boystown, and for one very important reason: sex. What distinguishes Boystown from Wrigleyville or Logan Square or any other gentrifying neighborhood with good nightlife is its sense of what Orne calls “sexy community,” defined as “a network of people, bound together through sexual intimacy.” He believes that open sexuality should be embraced and encouraged: straight people should be adopting queer habits, not the other way around. “By shedding its queer elements,” he writes, “Boystown trades sexuality for normalcy. It trades queer sexual connection for legal equality.” In other words, it would be a damned shame if the men of Boystown stopped hooking up on the dance floor or disappearing into certain basements for sex. And it’s hard to do those things when you’re surrounded by gawking tourists and straight women . . .

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Bronzeville: Recommended reading for a new podcast

March 20, 2017
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Bronzeville: Recommended reading for a new podcast

Josh Olson’s new 10-part podcast Bronzeville, which stars Laurence Fishburne, Larenz Tate, and Tika Sumpter, chronicles the lives of players in the illegal lottery that swept the African American community in the 1940s before the game was taken over by the mob. If that’s not enticing enough, here’s a list of some recommended background reading on the city, then and now; how it become one of America’s most iconic black neighborhoods; and why its redevelopment—in which the middle class benefits as lower-income residents are pushed out—continues to matter, now more than ever. *** Derek S. Hyra’s The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville explores the shared metamorphosis of these formerly notorious urban ghettos into two of our most iconic black communities, as the pressure of late-capitalist gentrification and a complicated web of factors—local, national, and global—shaped their remarkable revitalization. St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton’s Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City, based on research conducted by Works Progress Administration field workers, is a sweeping historical and sociological account of the people of Chicago’s South Side from the 1840s through the 1930s, as path-breaking today as it was when it was first published in 1945. Diane Grams’s Producing Local . . .

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Michèle Lamont wins the 2017 Erasmus Prize

February 24, 2017
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Michèle Lamont wins the 2017 Erasmus Prize

Congrats to sociologist Michèle Lamont, winner of the 2017 Erasmus Prize, which honors an individual or group who has made “an exceptional contribution to the humanities or the arts, in Europe and beyond.” The Erasmus Foundation cited Lamont—a professor of sociology and African/African-American Studies, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and director of the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University—for her “devoted contribution to social science research into the relationship between knowledge, power and diversity.” Books written, edited, or coedited by Lamont and published by the University of Chicago Press include the collection Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality (coedited with Marcel Fournier); The Cultural Territories of Race: Black and White Boundaries (edited by Lamont); and Money, Morals, and Manners: The Culture of the French and American Upper-Middle Class. To read more about Lamont’s work, click here. . . .

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Beethoven for a Later Age at the FT

February 17, 2017
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Beethoven for a Later Age at the FT

From Richard Fairman’s review of Beethoven for a Later Age at the Financial Times: The book follows personal journey, while simultaneously threading through the parallel stories of Beethoven’s development as a composer, of the string quartet in general, and of early 19th-century culture and politics. Does all that seem a tall order? The narrative is potentially as complex as one of Beethoven’s knotty four-part fugues in the late quartets, but 20 years’ experience of playing chamber music has made Dusinberre adept at handling the interplay of multiple themes. Self-awareness and a sense of humor play their part. Sleight of hand makes the book entertaining and easy to digest. Back in 1993, the invitation to join the august Takács Quartet was not extended lightly. “This is not a job,” warned one of the other three. “It’s your family, your life.” Periods of months away on international concert tours mean that any kind of settled social life has to be forgotten. From day one, the diary involved criss-crossing continents in a dirty white Ford Granada alternating with long hours of rehearsal sessions, day and night in the company of the same three colleagues. Every string quartet sets out with the intrinsically contradictory aim . . .

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On gentrification in the Cappuccino City

January 27, 2017
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On gentrification in the Cappuccino City

Derek S. Hyra’s Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City, an ethnography that uncovers the shifting demographics of Washington, DC’s Shaw/U Street neighborhood—a “gilded ghetto” under pressure of displacement from late-capitalist gentrification by an influx of young, white, relatively wealthy, and/or gay professionals—publishes this April. In the meantime, here’s a teaser—an episode from NPR’s “Around the Nation” focused on Shaw’s gentrification, through the eyes of its residents—that leans on Hyra’s research. *** For as much good as Valentine sees happening in his neighborhood, he recognizes there are real lapses when it comes to how people from different backgrounds interact with each other. The neighborhood’s changing demographics have created a space where identities such as race, age and class are constantly brushing up against each other. It’s a tension Shaw is still dealing with years after “gentrification” began. “Until I sit down and talk to you, we’re not going to get anywhere,” he said. “I can say good morning to you, but unless I sit down and say, ‘Where are you from?’ until I let you into my comfort zone and you’re not afraid of what happened once upon a time here in Shaw, there’s not going to be that cultural assimilation.” Derek . . .

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White studies and Arizona’s HB 2120

January 20, 2017
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White studies and Arizona’s HB 2120

Just this past week in Arizona, lawmakers in Arizona killed HB 2120 (but only after significant academic protest), a bill spurred by a white studies course at Arizona State University, which would have prohibited state-funded universities “from offering any class or activity that promotes division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people,” or encourages “solidarity or isolation” based on those same categories. Ethnic studies is already banned in K-12 education in Arizona, and HB2120 would have built on recent cases like one in Wisconsin, where because of a course on racism entitled “The Problem of Whiteness,” Republican legislators threatened to withhold funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A recent piece at Inside Higher Ed goes in much deeper about this crisis in representation, including an account from Christina Berchini, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, who wrote about the attempt to shutdown whiteness studies in a local op-ed: Berchini, who studies whiteness, said in an interview that conversations about it are often “upsetting because it’s so uncomfortable” — in part because many people have never before been asked what it means to be white. . . .

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The Prince of Tricksters at the Guardian

November 28, 2016
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The Prince of Tricksters at the Guardian

From a recent review of Matt Houlbrook’s The Prince of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook, at the Guardian: Between 1917 and 1924, Lucas was taken to court five times. In a society of strangers, his crimes were subversive, suggesting all you needed was money and the veneer of class to pass yourself off as a gentleman. For historian Matt Houlbrook, Lucas’s life story reveals deeper truths about the period after the first world war. He cites the criminologist Henry Rhodes: “Show me your crimes and I will show you the nature of your society.” New forms of mass culture and democracy promised greater possibilities of personal reinvention: “Lucas’s crimes were unusual, but his aspirations echoed those of countless ordinary men and women in a period when advertising encouraged dreamlike fantasies of social mobility.” . . . Lucas drank himself into an early grave in 1940. Few mourned the passing of the man known as the “prince of tricksters.” Even Houlbrook acknowledges that Lucas was a “lying bastard.” But he can’t help but be beguiled by this extraordinary character: “I’m obsessed with making sense of you.” Lucas is an exquisitely slippery subject and Houlbrook admits that “my writing echoes . . .

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