Class(ed) Acts, or Class Is as Class Does

in Harlemworld

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780226389981
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226390000 | DOI:
Class(ed) Acts, or Class Is as Class Does

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This chapter, which shows that folk theories of identity recognize and describe class differences and their connections to behavior quite explicitly, examines a few of the ways in which some Harlemites think about class and enact what they consider class differences to entail. Conservatives lament that African Americans fail to see beyond a “race card” they employ to trump all other forms of social differentiation. However, many of the folks in Harlem maintain that, on the contrary, only blacks can look at the black community and spot internal differences, differences that defy other people's monolithic notions of blackness. African Americans do clearly recognize class markers, and this delineates the extent to which Harlemites theorize these class identities, transforming folk theories about class stratification into specific class-inflected practices that are often differently assessed. The chapter extends a question about social interactions across class lines to another one about social behaviors read as class(ed) actions. People have particular ideas about what class difference means for the way individuals behave in a class-stratified social world. With these ideas and perceptual frameworks, people perform class—that is, they behave in ways that are cognizant of class as an embodied identity.

Keywords: class; Harlemites; social behaviors; African Americans; blackness

Chapter.  15133 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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