Reuben A. Buford May

Professor of Sociology, Texas A&M University


Fall 2009: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow

Race, Culture, Class and Urban Social Space

Project Description

Race, Culture, Class and Urban Social Space

The intersection of race, culture, and class for African Americans in the context of interaction in urban public space is the subject of the book manuscript that I will prepare during the fall of 2009. The book will move beyond the simplistic view of "black space" and "white space" to understand the nuanced behaviors of individuals sharing those spaces. It will reveal the taken-for-granted behaviors that help to support or dismantle the ways in which African Americans and whites think about and respond to issues of race in the public realm. I examine the nature of these interactions within the context of urban nightlife in downtown Athens, Georgia. Athens, Georgia, is an excellent site for the study of interactions between African Americans and whites given its history of racial segregation and contemporary racial hostilities over the use of the highly desirable entertainment district. For instance, one issue that highlights the racial and class tensions within the context of nightlife is the use of dress codes by white nightclub owners. Key observations from the current study about the racial tension surrounding these dress codes and the interpretation of these dress codes by African Americans is captured in my recent article (with Sean Chaplin) entitled, “Cracking the Code: Race, Class, and Access to Nightclubs in Urban America,” (Qualitative Sociology, 31:57-72). This is just one example of the ways that race, culture, and class in contemporary America play out in the everyday interaction between African Americans and whites. I will flesh out arguments and observations like this in the book manuscript.

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