The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life

The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life

by Elijah Anderson
     
 

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An acclaimed sociologist illuminates the public life of an American city, offering a major reinterpretation of the racial dynamics in America.

Following his award-winning work on inner-city violence, Code of the Street, sociologist Elijah Anderson introduces the concept of the “cosmopolitan canopy”—the urban island of civility that

Overview

An acclaimed sociologist illuminates the public life of an American city, offering a major reinterpretation of the racial dynamics in America.

Following his award-winning work on inner-city violence, Code of the Street, sociologist Elijah Anderson introduces the concept of the “cosmopolitan canopy”—the urban island of civility that exists amidst the ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves where segregation is the norm. Under the cosmopolitan canopy, diverse peoples come together, and for the most part practice getting along. Anderson’s path-breaking study of this setting provides a new understanding of the complexities of present-day race relations and reveals the unique opportunities here for cross-cultural interaction.

Anderson walks us through Center City Philadelphia, revealing and illustrating through his ethnographic fieldwork how city dwellers often interact across racial, ethnic, and social borders. People engage in a distinctive folk ethnography. Canopies operating in close proximity create a synergy that becomes a cosmopolitan zone. In the vibrant atmosphere of these public spaces, civility is the order of the day. However, incidents can arise that threaten and rend the canopy, including scenes of tension involving borders of race, class, sexual preference, and gender. But when they do—assisted by gloss—the resilience of the canopy most often prevails. In this space all kinds of city dwellers—from gentrifiers to the homeless, cabdrivers to doormen—manage to co-exist in the urban environment, gaining local knowledge as they do, which then helps reinforce and spread tolerance through contact and mutual understanding.

With compelling, meticulous descriptions of public spaces such as 30th Street Station, Reading Terminal Market, and Rittenhouse Square, and quasi-public places like the modern-day workplace, Anderson provides a rich narrative account of how blacks and whites relate and redefine the color line in everyday public life. He reveals how eating, shopping, and people-watching under the canopy can ease racial tensions, but also how the spaces in and between canopies can reinforce boundaries. Weaving colorful observations with keen social insight, Anderson shows how the canopy—and its lessons—contributes to the civility of our increasingly diverse cities.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Booklist
“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.”
Randall Collins
“The most important book on race relations in many years.”
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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393080728
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/21/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
318
Sales rank:
1,148,629
File size:
565 KB

Meet the Author

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.

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