The Cultural Territories of Race: Black and White Boundaries

By Rainer, Spencer | Ethnic Studies Review, April 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

The Cultural Territories of Race: Black and White Boundaries


Rainer, Spencer, Ethnic Studies Review


The aim of this volume is to illuminate various black and white boundaries in the United States through an examination of the "cultural dimensions of racial inequality." Fourteen essays touch on a wide variety of subjects including African American corporate executives, fast-food workers in Harlem, Afrocentrism, single-parenting, rap music, and feminism, to name only some. The authors of these essays strive to move beyond a static structure versus culture dualism and to instead highlight the theoretical and empirical importance of cultural scripts, all without reducing discussion to the level of "blaming the victim."

The chapters contain much compelling material, some of which is not often covered from the particular perspectives offered in this collection. For instance Katherine Newman and Catherine Ellis show that intraracial stigma facing African American and Latino fast-food workers in Harlem is superadded to the more generally recognized problems of working in a high-turnover, low-pay industry. Maureen Waller's chapter on the separation of reproduction and marriage explores cultural motives that inform the differing decisions of low-income white and African American single -parents regarding whether or when to marry. These sorts of issues are often avoided by researchers for fear of ascribing improper cultural values to their subjects. Yet this volume's authors have actively chosen to engage just these issues in ways both complex and sensitive.

Similarly Elijah Anderson's chapter on African American executives deals with difficult questions of group loyalty and intragroup conflict within the overwhelmingly white corporate world, laying out the complex cultural negotiating that goes on among Afro-Americans who interact with each other at varying levels within the corporate structure. …

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