Chapter

Introduction: Doing Harlem, Touring Harlemworld

in Harlemworld

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226389981
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226390000 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226390000.003.0001
Introduction: Doing Harlem, Touring Harlemworld

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This chapter examines the contours of African Americans' theories of identity, a rather phenomenological study in ethnographic garb. It offers a fairly straightforward argument: many African Americans have decidedly performative notions of social identity. Class position is glimpsed through interpretations of everyday behaviors. Racial identity is predicated on perceptions of particular social actions and is shored up with recourse to specific kinds of activities. Socially meaningful identifications are partially derived from observable behaviors, practices, and social performances, and Harlemworld offers this specific conflation of identity and behavior as a potentially useful way of hewing antiessentialist social identities. Harlemworld is a word that highlights the area's own intertextuality, predicated on the same recombinant properties of sampling, mixing, and scratching that define the musical genre. The chapter shuttles back and forth through discussions about the same few people, teasing out a singular argument about race and behavior, repeating similar points in slightly different ink: folk theories of race are inextricably grounded in readings of racialized behaviors, and these behaviors create not just normative policies for racial policing but also the possibility of escape from racial ideology's most reactionary directives.

Keywords: Harlem; ideology; racial behavior; intertexuality; social identity

Chapter.  6099 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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