Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America

Overview

A rare exploration of the racial and class politics of architecture, Little White Houses examines how postwar media representations associated the ordinary single-family house with middle-class whites to the exclusion of others, creating a powerful and invidious cultural iconography that continues to resonate today. Drawing from popular and trade magazines, floor plans and architectural drawings, television programs, advertisements, and beyond, Dianne Harris shows how the depiction of houses and their interiors, ...

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Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America

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Overview

A rare exploration of the racial and class politics of architecture, Little White Houses examines how postwar media representations associated the ordinary single-family house with middle-class whites to the exclusion of others, creating a powerful and invidious cultural iconography that continues to resonate today. Drawing from popular and trade magazines, floor plans and architectural drawings, television programs, advertisements, and beyond, Dianne Harris shows how the depiction of houses and their interiors, furnishings, and landscapes shaped and reinforced the ways in which Americans perceived white, middle-class identities and helped support a housing market already defined by racial segregation and deep economic inequalities.

After describing the ordinary postwar house and its orderly, prescribed layout, Harris analyzes how cultural iconography associated these houses with middle-class whites and an ideal of white domesticity. She traces how homeowners were urged to buy specific kinds of furniture and other domestic objects and how the appropriate storage and display of these possessions was linked to race and class by designers, tastemakers, and publishers. Harris also investigates lawns, fences, indoor-outdoor spaces, and other aspects of the postwar home and analyzes their contribution to the assumption that the rightful owners of ordinary houses were white.

Richly detailed, Little White Houses adds a new dimension to our understanding of race in America and the inequalities that persist in the U.S. housing market.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In this fascinating probe of the familiar suburban tract homes of the post–World War II era, Dianne Harris powerfully conveys how race and class were inscribed on the new metropolitan landscape. White middle-class America was born and raised in suburbia, a legacy we still live with today." —Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

"Impressively interdisciplinary and marvelously attentive to telling details, intimate lives, and social structures, Professor Harris joins Dolores Hayden, Gwendolyn Wright, and other others in making the architecture and landscape of everyday lives illuminate the workings of a whole historical period. Little White Houses is a blockbuster contribution to the critical study of whiteness and to the history of the United States after World War II." —David Roediger, author of How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Dianne Harris is an architectural historian and director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Nature of Authority: Villa Culture, Landscape, and Representation in Eighteenth-Century Lombardy and the editor of Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania, among other books.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface

Introduction: Race and the Residential Sphere

1. The Ordinary Postwar House

2. Magazine Lessons: Publishing the Lexicon of White Domesticity

3. Rendered Whiteness: Architectural Drawings and Graphics

4. Private Worlds: The Spatial Contours of Exclusion and Privilege

5. Household Goods: Purchasing and Consuming Identity

6. Built-ins and Closets: Status, Storage, and Display

7. The Home Show: Televising the Postwar House

8. Designing the Yard: Gardens, Property, and Landscape

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

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