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Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America
     

Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America

by Jennifer Lee
 

Hollywood and the news media have repeatedly depicted the inner-city retail store as a scene of racial conflict and acrimony. Civility in the City uncovers a quite different story. Jennifer Lee examines the relationships between African American, Jewish, and Korean merchants and their black customers in New York and Philadelphia, and shows that, in fact,

Overview

Hollywood and the news media have repeatedly depicted the inner-city retail store as a scene of racial conflict and acrimony. Civility in the City uncovers a quite different story. Jennifer Lee examines the relationships between African American, Jewish, and Korean merchants and their black customers in New York and Philadelphia, and shows that, in fact, social order, routine, and civility are the norm.

Lee illustrates how everyday civility is negotiated and maintained in countless daily interactions between merchants and customers. While merchant-customer relations are in no way uniform, most are civil because merchants actively work to manage tensions and smooth out incidents before they escalate into racially charged anger. Civility prevails because merchants make investments to maintain the day-to-day routine, recognizing that the failure to do so can have dramatic consequences.

How then do minor clashes between merchants and customers occasionally erupt into the large-scale conflicts we see on television? Lee shows how inner-city poverty and extreme inequality, coupled with the visible presence of socially mobile newcomers, can provide fertile ground for such conflicts. The wonder is that they occur so rarely, a fact that the media ignore.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Conflicts between Korean store owners and inner-city black customers have become a familiar symbol of American racial tensions, yet these clashes are really quite rare, argues University of California-Irvine sociology professor Jennifer Lee. Her study Civility in the City: Blacks, Jews, and Koreans in Urban America examines the relationship between African-American, Korean and Jewish store owners and their black customers in New York and Philadelphia. Interviewing merchants and customers and analyzing the economics of small-business ownership, she shows that the parties on both sides of the counter strive to make interactions pleasant and routine, yet she also examines how and why tensions can periodically escalate. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674008977
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
10/28/2002
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are Saying About This

Jennifer Lee takes us on a masterful tour of poor and middle class African American shopping streets, their Jewish, Korean and black merchants and their black shoppers. The result is a thoughtful and nuanced portrait of everyday interracial commercial relations; it is also a compelling study of urban civility resting on fault lines of potential racial and economic conflict.

Meet the Author

Jennifer Lee is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine.

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