An acclaimed sociologist illuminates the public life of an American city, offering a major reinterpretation of the racial dynamics in America.
Elijah Anderson, called "one of our best urban ethnographers" by the New York Times Book Review, introduces the concept of the "cosmopolitan canopy": the urban islands of civility amid segregated ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves.
“Fascinating sociology and people-watching at its profound best.”
William Julius Wilson
“Vintage Elijah Anderson—original, creative, engaging, and thought-provoking . . . . This book is a must-read.”
“The most important book on race relations in many years.”
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.)
Marian Wright Edelman
“The Cosmopolitan Canopy is a richly detailed account of how the public spaces we all share can either separate or help bring us together. I strongly recommend it.”
Renee C. Fox
“Elijah Anderson is a master ethnographer. Field research is a way of life for him, a medium through which unceasingly, over the course of many years, he has courageously explored the innermost recesses of life in an American city, especially the social worlds and the experiences of Black Americans. Once again, in The Cosmopolitan Canopy, he moves from one area of Philadelphia to another, exploring the patterns of social interaction and behavior in various public places. Anderson calls these urban spaces ‘cosmopolitan canopies’ – a concept likely to evoke lively, illuminating discussion.”
Elijah Anderson holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. His most prominent works include the award-winning books Code of the Street and Streetwise. He lives in New Haven and Philadelphia.