The Future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City

Overview

Before the next century is out, Americans of African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry will outnumber those of European origin. In the Elmhurst-Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City, the transition occurred during the 1970s, and the area's two-decade experience of multiracial diversity offers us an early look at the future of urban America. The book examines the ways in which residents - in everyday interactions, block and tenant associations, houses of worship, small business coalitions, civic rituals, ...
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Overview

Before the next century is out, Americans of African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry will outnumber those of European origin. In the Elmhurst-Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York City, the transition occurred during the 1970s, and the area's two-decade experience of multiracial diversity offers us an early look at the future of urban America. The book examines the ways in which residents - in everyday interactions, block and tenant associations, houses of worship, small business coalitions, civic rituals, incidents of ethnic and racial hostility, and political struggles for more schools, for youth programs, and against over-development - have forged and tested alliances across lines of race, ethnicity, and language.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book is very well written. . . . and its conclusions are solid. . . . It has an excellent bibliography."—Choice

"Roger Sanjek tells a complex tale with empathy, subtlety, and wit. . . . In Elmhurst-Corona, he has found a rough-and-tumble model of diversity that puts the torturously self-conscious multi-culturalism of elite college campuses to shame. It is a story that more Americans should know and one that should give New Yorkers a lot more to think about on their next ride to the airport."—Lingua Franca

"This is a very optimistic book. . . . Sanjek's discussion of quality-of-life issues and the decline of manufacturing are especially important. . . . The Future of Us All is an interesting and important look at changes in urban America during the last third of the twentieth century."—Dominic A. Pacyga, Journal of American History

"A major accomplishment, an important book, and a rich and readable social history."—Anthropology Newsletter

"This impressive book brings together qualitative examination accompanying prolonged immersion in . . . the field and a sensitivity to issues of race and ethnicity as these factors manifest themselves in the everyday lives of people. . . . Sanjek makes abundantly clear that Elmhurst-Corona is a microcosm of the racial and ethnic complexity that is and in a few years will even more visibly become characteristic of the entire country. . . . His appraisal is a healthy and invaluable reminder that the task ahead is not an easy one and requires the committed effort of both individual residents and the government."—Rajini Srikanth, Amerasia Journal

"A blueprint for fieldwork in contemporary urban settings. . . . Roger Sanjek's The Future of Us All provides us with three gifts. First, we have an excellent ethnography of a diverse urban neighborhood. Second, Sanjek offers an admirable model for contemporary ethnographic context. Third, we are given hope for the future—the future of us all."—David S. Surrey, American Anthropologist

"The author suggests that the politics of place is the best hope for building racial unity in the long run."—Sage Race Relations Abstracts

"This is an excellent book and a welcome relief from the muddy stream of depressing studies . . . . Sanjek devoted most of thirteen years to the part-time study of the Elmhurst-Corona district of the Borough of Queens, thus ensuring as intimate and first-hand knowledge of a complex urban area as we are likely to see. This extended period of study produces a dense array of material on community action in which the purely local is illuminated by careful reference to developments in city, state, and national policy—political, social, and economic. . . . The overall tone of the study is decidedly optimistic for, as Sanjek rightly says in the very last sentence of the book, 'Nothing is impossible if we believe that people can change.'"—Raymond D. Smith, Transforming Anthropology

"This thoughtful, well-documented study of the life of a neighborhood as it changes over time is must reading for anyone who cares about New York, the life of cities, or the possibilities for integrating populations and creating communities in which everyone has a stake."—Diversity News

"The Future of Us All offers a sophisticated theory about race, class, and governance in American cities, while the book's muckraking discussions of local and citywide politics make it a wonderful read. Drawing upon extraordinarily rich data, Roger Sanjek writes with clarity and passion."—Karen Brodkin, UCLA

"For more than a decade, Roger Sanjek immersed himself in the life of a New York City neighborhood on the leading edge of racial and ethnic transition. This rich and readable account of the community life of Elmhurst-Corona is the result. Sanjek shows us people gradually overcoming racial and ethnic categories to recognize each other and work together, forging a vibrant neighborhood politics that sometimes prevails over the 'permanent government.'"—Frances Fox Piven, author of The Breaking of the American Social Compact

"The dramatic demographic shift in Elmhurst-Corona makes a great story, full of intrigue and personalities, but without the racial violence seen elsewhere in New York City or in Los Angeles. For this reason our nation's leaders would do well to read Roger Sanjek's account of the neighborhood's transformation. And they should pay special attention to how the women in the community-white, black, Latina, Asian, American-born and immigrant-provided the critical leadership during this transition by 'listening to each other.' It behooves the rest of us to listen as well, because this book is about the future of us all!"—Evelyn Hu-DeHart, University of Colorado at Boulder

"Roger Sanjek is an extremely knowledgeable anthropologist, tough-minded and with a great knack for synthesis. He is also a street-wise New Yorker who cares deeply about his city. In its skillful interweaving of urban and global political economy with local issues of ethnic diversity and quality of life, The Future of Us All has few equals among recent portrayals of late twentieth-century urban transformation."—Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction: A Window on America's Great Transition 1
Pt. I A Neighborhood in New York City 17
1 Elmhurst-Corona, 1652-1960 19
2 The Social Order of New York City 28
Pt. II City and Neighborhood Remade: 1960-1980 39
3 Racial Change and Decentralization 41
4 The Impact of the New Immigration 61
5 Fiscal Crisis and Land-Use Struggles 83
Plates 103
Pt. III City and Neighborhood at Odds: 1980-1996 117
6 New York's Three Economies 119
7 Mayoral Ideologies 141
8 Mayoral Practice 165
9 Assaults on the Quality of Life 185
Pt. IV The Transformation of Neighborhood Politics 213
10 The New Multicultural Geography of Elmhurst-Corona 215
11 Solidarity and Conflict among White Americans 229
12 Continuities in Civic Politics 256
13 Innovations in Civic Politics 280
14 The Politics of Place 300
15 Bonds of Interracial Cooperation 332
Conclusion: The Future of Us All 367
Notes 395
References 427
Index 451
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