The Cosmopolitan Canopy: How can cities like Milwaukee break down ethnic and racial barriers?

The Cosmopolitan Canopy: How can cities like Milwaukee break down ethnic and racial barriers?

Much has been made of Milwaukee being one of, if not the most, racially segregated cities in the country. And yet a quick glance at a map of resident ethnicity confirms there are a number of places where diverse populations mix. Yale professor Elijah Anderson explores these places where people of all backgrounds peacefully coexist and rub elbows in his book The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. Anderson draws on Philadelphia for his inspiration, but the examples he cites have direct corollaries in Milwaukee.

What can be done to expand these spaces? Why do they still fail? How do we break down barriers to create a less segregated city? We’ll discuss the places Anderson examines, including parks, transit stations, malls and public markets, as a way to look at better designing places for everyone.

Come for discussion and a social hour on Monday, December 12th in the backroom of My Office, 763 N. Milwaukee St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend, the discussions are informal and open-ended. If you don’t finish the book, don’t worry. Come to listen, learn and engage.  

The book is available from Amazon, the Milwaukee Public Library, and book stores everywhere.

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About Elijah Anderson

Elijah Anderson is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University. He is one of the leading urban ethnographers in the United States. His publications include Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City (1999), winner of the Komarovsky Award from the Eastern Sociological Society; Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community(1990), winner of the American Sociological Association’s Robert E. Park Award for the best published book in the area of Urban Sociology; and the classic sociological work, A Place on the Corner (1978; 2nd ed., 2003). Anderson’s most recent ethnographic work, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, was published by WW Norton in March 2012. He is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award of the American Sociological Association.

Dr. Anderson has served on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and is formerly a vice-president of the American Sociological Association. He has served in an editorial capacity for a wide range of professional journals and special publications, including Qualitative Sociology, Ethnography, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, City & Community, Annals of the Society of Political and Social Science, and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He has also served as a consultant to a variety of government agencies, including the White House, the United States Congress, the National Academy of Science and the National Science Foundation. Additionally, he was a member of the National Research Council’s Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior.

Elijah Anderson on Race Relations and Public Space: Beyond the Primacy of the Street

Elijah Anderson on Race Relations and Public Space: Beyond the Primacy of the Street

Contemporary SociologyThe Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, by Elijah Anderson New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 2012. 318pp. $17.95 paper. ISBN:97803933

Mitchell Duneier
Princeton University

Were a future historian to turn to the sociological literature of the past fifty years to seek information on how members of different races were living together in urban areas, he or she would get almost no sense of the extent to which blacks and whites (not to mention other groups) have interacted along and across racial lines. Harvey Molotch’s Managed Integration (1972) showed, by counting the number of blacks and whites in various stores and commercial spaces, that they may have gone shopping side by side, but otherwise, they did not socialize in public. There has been little ethnographic data collected on the topic since. In works like Massey and Denton’sAmerican Apartheid (1994) and Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), which emphasize the extent of social isolation and segregation in the United States, interaction suffuses these studies as an imputed variable. These works were never intended to be informative about the actual interactions that occur between and outside such communities as their inhabitants circulate throughout the city, but the influence of demographic images could give the impression that blacks and whites barely interact.

Spirituality and Practice: Book Review: The Cosmopolitan Canopy

Spirituality and Practice: Book Review: By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

It is such a pleasure to read about a city lover walking around and enjoying the diversity evident in all the people sitting on benches in parks or congregating in shopping centers. Elijah Wood is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University. His first book Code of the Street was an award-winning examination of inner city violence. This acclaimed African-American sociologist returns to the city for this book, but looks at it from a different angle. (more…)

Hopeful Sociology

Hopeful Sociology

Hopeful Sociology
How to Become Cosmopolitan in Urban Public Space
by Stéphane Tonnelat
From Books&

An ethnography of Philadelphia takes up a problem rarely addressed by the social sciences: how to account for events that do not take place? In his latest opus, sociologist Elijah Anderson examines the absence of discrimination in a city market and looks at the conditions of possibility of cosmopolitanism.

Download: Hopeful Sociology (PDF – 182.4 kb)

The social sciences have a difficult time identifying and studying positive trends affecting our urban society. And a city like Philadelphia, the setting for the book under review, seems particularly ill-suited to the task. The white middle class and businesses have long fled the inner city, encouraged by a federal policy which favored suburban development. Since the 1950s, the poor, mostly African Americans, have been left stranded in a city plagued by shrunken fiscal revenues. Today, Philadelphia is still suffering from deindustrialization and the current economic crisis is taking its toll. The social upward mobility of lower class people, again mostly African Americans, is severely impaired by poor public services (education, public transportation…) and a lack of blue-collar employment opportunities (see the Pew Report (2009) cited by Anderson).

Elijah Anderson, an African American sociologist formerly at the University of Pennsylvania and now at Yale University, has built his sociological career in the steps of W. E. B. Du Bois (1899), documenting, in excruciating detail, in several landmark books (Anderson 1976, 1990; 1999; 2008), the struggles of everyday life in poor black inner city neighborhoods. In these areas, plagued by intractable economic conditions and institutionalized racism, violent behavior comes to dominate the streets and social relations. This not only reinforces the stigmatization of African Americans in the larger society, but also participates in establishing a self-reproducing “code of the street” within the community.Anderson has been one of the leaders of the renaissance of urban ethnography in the last twenty years, reviving and improving, with many others, the fieldwork tradition of the Chicago School of Sociology (Anderson 2009). Having refined both inductive and deductive scientific analysis, thanks to debates within the discipline (see for example the discussion in the American Journal of Sociology launched by Wacquant about the work of Anderson and two other ethnographers (Wacquant 2002; Duneier 2002; Newman 2002; Anderson 2002), ethnographers have gained a new respectability in sociology, which allows them to reach an audience beyond their academic turf and to explore new concepts. (more…)

Nicholas Lemann Discusses The Cosmopolitan Canopy in “Get Out of Town.” The New Yorker Magazine.

Nicholas Lemann Discusses The Cosmopolitan Canopy in “Get Out of Town.” The New Yorker Magazine.

Has the celebration of cities gone too far?
by Nicholas Lemann

ABSTRACT: A CRITIC AT LARGE about recent books on cities and urban planning. In the United States right now, after a long run of “urban crisis” (punctuated by periodic hopeful reports of revitalization), cities are viewed positively again. The veteran sociologist Elijah Anderson’s latest book, “newyorkercover” (Norton; $25.95), posits that there are certain venues in cities (Philadelphia is his example), such as public markets, where the races can come together temporarily without conflict. But he cautions against taking too much from this. He offers detailed, occasionally first-person descriptions of how racially charged life can be for an upper-middle-class black man when he ventures outside the cosmopolitan canopy.

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Elijah Anderson explores Philadelphia’s ‘cosmopolitan canopies’

Elijah Anderson explores Philadelphia’s ‘cosmopolitan canopies’

The “cosmopolitan canopy” in Rittenhouse Square. Photo courtesy of Elijah Anderson

WHYY Radio

The latest census found Philadelphia the nation’s 9th most segregated metropolitan area in the United States. But there are still many places that bring people together, and it is those meeting grounds that Yale sociologist ELIJAH ANDERSON focuses on in his new book, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. From hospital waiting rooms to off-track betting parlors to Reading Terminal Market to Rittenhouse Square, Anderson’s research investigates the complex interplay in urban semi-public spaces in the city he previously explored in Code of the Street and Streetwise.

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