Canarsie / Edition 1

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What accounts for the precarious state of liberalism in the mid 1980s? Why was the Republican Party able to steal away so many ethnic Democrats of modest means in recent presidential elections? Jonathan Rieder explores these questions in his powerful study of the Jews and Italians of Canarsie, a middle-income community that was once the scene of a wild insurgency against racial busing. Proud bootstrappers, the children of immigrants, Canarsians may speak with piquant New York accents, but their story has a more universal appeal. Canarsie is Middle America, Brooklyn-style.
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Editorial Reviews

American Journal of Sociology
A sparkling shower of insights...Intellectually exciting.
Contemporary Sociology
This is the best ethnography of a white community to appear in a decade, and should be read by every scholar in urban sociology, political sociology, and social movement…Rieder has crafted a finely detailed portrait.
Kai Erikson
A remarkable compelling portrait of the new ways of middle America, drawn with compassion, grace, and wisdom.
Wilson Quarterly
No scholarly book of recent memory better conveys the specific sense of outraged betrayal that swept through the urban precincts of the Democratic Party in the mid 1970s than does Jonathan Rieder's brilliant study Canarsie.
Wall Street Journal

Yale anthropologist Jonathan Rieder spent two years living not in New Guinea or up the Amazon but in a place that his academic colleagues probably found even more exotic: the lower-middle-class neighborhood adjacent to New York's Kennedy Airport. There Rieder witnessed close-up the destruction of Roosevelt's coalition by voter revulsion against crime, welfare and casual disorder.
— David Frum

Richard Reeves
The rise of Ronald Reagan and the politics of the 1980s surprised many of the country's best-known analysts…Jonathan Rieder was in the right places at the right time--the streets and kitchens of Canarsie, Brooklyn--to understand what was actually happening (and going to happen next) in American politics.
Wall Street Journal - David Frum
Yale anthropologist Jonathan Rieder spent two years living not in New Guinea or up the Amazon but in a place that his academic colleagues probably found even more exotic: the lower-middle-class neighborhood adjacent to New York's Kennedy Airport. There Rieder witnessed close-up the destruction of Roosevelt's coalition by voter revulsion against crime, welfare and casual disorder.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674093614
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1987
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 0.69 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction Danger and Dispossession
Part 1: History

1. The Fenced land

2. Ethnic Tradition


3. Vulnerable Places

4. The Lost People

5. The Reverence is Gone


6. Striking Back

7. Canarsie Schools for Canarsie Children

8. The Trials of Liberalism

Notes Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 10, 2009

    My Old Canarsie

    This book accurately describes the Canarsie of my youth. I lived through the anti-busing boycotts, school riots, blockbusting, white flight, back room deals at the Thomas Jefferson Democractic Club and general tension. Professor Rieder captured the essence of the polarization and struggles that infested the Community. Despite these tensions, Canarsie was a special place that is nostalgic for many of us who grew up there. It had a bipolar personality - great times but Professor Rieder is on the money with its dark side.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2013

    Highly recommend

    I finally got around to reading this book because I kept seeing it cited by many respected authors writing about post-1960s America. It was well-worth it—a stand-out leader in this genre of micro-studies of neighborhoods under transition. The richness of the account lies in the extensive interviews Rieder conducted in the late 1970s with Italian and Jewish Canarsie residents, giving voice to their fears over declining standards of living and their anger and confusion over the break-up of what they nostalgically remember as culturally cohesive, safe neighborhoods. While the degree of racism expressed was hard-to-take (ubiquitous uses of the N-word and slurs comparing African Americans to animals), Rieder manages to put this bigotry into a nuanced context without excusing it. Granted, the absence of African-American voices gives a lopsided feel to the wider historical narrative; but Rieder justifiably argues that the aim of his project was not a comprehensive portrait but something more specific: namely, to shed light on why the Italians and Jews of Canarsie proved such staunch opponents of integration beyond simply and simplistically pointing to racism. This book remains very relevant for showing how wider global and national economic pressures squeezing working and middle class Americans often get personalized and localized into self-defeating racial resentments more apt to accelerate neighborhood decline than reverse it. (If you like this type of micro-urban research, especially on Jewish and Italian Americans, you might also like Gerald Gamm’s Urban Exodus.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2002

    Makes one understand decline of US cities

    In many circles, the reasons given for the decline of US cities are highways and tax-deductible mortgages. This book does a lot of show that the highway/mortgage thesis is very incomplete. After reading this book, it is very difficult to think that it was opposition to integration that emptied our cities of the middle-class. My biggest conclusion from reading this book was that the French handled their urban problems much better than we did. Instead of building housing projects in cities which sooner-or-later rotted the surrounding area, the French built their projects outside of cities, where no preexisting neighborhoods were affected. A criticism of the book is that it is a little dated. The publication date is 1985. There should at least be an epilogue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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