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The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life [Kindle Edition]

Elijah Anderson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An acclaimed sociologist illuminates the public life of an American city, offering a major reinterpretation of the racial dynamics in America.


Following his award-winning work on inner-city violence, Code of the Street, sociologist Elijah Anderson introduces the concept of the “cosmopolitan canopy”—the urban island of civility that exists amidst the ghettos, suburbs, and ethnic enclaves where segregation is the norm. Under the cosmopolitan canopy, diverse peoples come together, and for the most part practice getting along. Anderson’s path-breaking study of this setting provides a new understanding of the complexities of present-day race relations and reveals the unique opportunities here for cross-cultural interaction.



Anderson walks us through Center City Philadelphia, revealing and illustrating through his ethnographic fieldwork how city dwellers often interact across racial, ethnic, and social borders. People engage in a distinctive folk ethnography. Canopies operating in close proximity create a synergy that becomes a cosmopolitan zone. In the vibrant atmosphere of these public spaces, civility is the order of the day. However, incidents can arise that threaten and rend the canopy, including scenes of tension involving borders of race, class, sexual preference, and gender. But when they do—assisted by gloss—the resilience of the canopy most often prevails. In this space all kinds of city dwellers—from gentrifiers to the homeless, cabdrivers to doormen—manage to co-exist in the urban environment, gaining local knowledge as they do, which then helps reinforce and spread tolerance through contact and mutual understanding.



With compelling, meticulous descriptions of public spaces such as 30th Street Station, Reading Terminal Market, and Rittenhouse Square, and quasi-public places like the modern-day workplace, Anderson provides a rich narrative account of how blacks and whites relate and redefine the color line in everyday public life. He reveals how eating, shopping, and people-watching under the canopy can ease racial tensions, but also how the spaces in and between canopies can reinforce boundaries. Weaving colorful observations with keen social insight, Anderson shows how the canopy—and its lessons—contributes to the civility of our increasingly diverse cities.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Yale sociology professor Anderson (Code of the Street) takes the reader on an ethnographic walking tour of Philadelphia to observe how city dwellers interact across racial lines. He attends particularly to the "cosmopolitan canopy"—public settings like parks, malls, town squares that maintain civil and comfortable interactions between diverse populations. Anderson moves then to those areas where the canopy breaks down (the workplace, public transportation). Anderson's nuanced treatment of "the social dynamics of racial inequality" and his precise observations (the politics of eye contact, for example), while rooted in scholarship, are uncommonly readable: snippets from his journals and sketches of neighborhood habitués offer immediate pleasure, and the book is a people watcher's delight. And while Anderson doesn't gloss over how prevalent and pernicious racism remains in America—"There comes a time in the life of every African American, regardless of how high he or she has risen in society, when he or she is reminded of his or her place as a black man or woman"—his study allows a cautious optimism that "the canopy offers a taste of how inclusive and civil social relationships could become." (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Cosmopolitan canopies are those spaces in urban environments that offer a break from the tensions of chafing racial and economic differences, a place for diverse peoples to assemble and rub elbows. Sociologist and folk ethnographer Anderson offers a rich narrative of such spaces in Philadelphia, including Reading Terminal Market and Rittenhouse Square. Anderson details the give-and-take of public interaction in urban settings, much of it dictated by race and class. He observes how close and far away people sit, whether they greet each other, how deep or long their interactions are, and whether they break or reinforce barriers. He also chronicles the daily shifting of space used by the homeless, workers, residents, and commuters as they encounter, interact, and evade. Anderson�s observations are keen but not distant as he offers journal pages and interviews, showing his own full engagement in interactions with a cross section of Philadelphians. Anderson also offers singular insight into the social machinations of blacks in professional versus social settings. Fascinating sociology and people-watching at its profound best. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 541 KB
  • Print Length: 318 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 28, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004OVEYRG
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,726 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could change the way you think September 3, 2011
By David
Format:Hardcover
The Cosmopolitan Canopy is a brilliant description of safe and unsafe spaces in an urban environment. Anderson delights in observing various scenes in Philadelphia. If you live here, you will take special pleasure in recognizing the places he describes. He begins by describing cosmopolitan canopies, spaces where everyone is welcome and encouraged to let down their guard. He goes on to carefully delineate why people of color need and create ethno spaces, as well, places apart where they can be totally themselves. He posits that everyone has varying degrees of ethno and cosmo orientations, and it's fascinating to think about where one fits into that spectrum.
As a white person, I tend to assume that all spaces are cosmopolitan, that all spaces should be equally welcoming to a variety of racial groups. While Professor Anderson communicates a strong respect and appreciation for those cosmopolitan canopies, he subtly challenges the assumption that all institutions have that kind of safety, and explains why set-apart places are important for some groups.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the love of cities June 9, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Another urban tour de force by Elijah Anderson. The Cosmopolitan Canopy brings back fond memories of Jane Jacobs as it takes the reader through neighborhoods, describing in great and very readable detail just how our cities work. Unlike Jacobs, Cosmopolitan Canopy focuses primarily on race by examining the way boundaries are formed, roles are maintained, and social interactions occur. Anderson, once again, provides an excellent backstage sociological view into the urban experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for the classroom October 10, 2014
Format:Paperback
This book is perfectly suited for use in introductory university course work and, I suspect, pertinent community college and even high school courses. I am currently using the book in a large-enrollment introduction to sociology at a public research university. I can report that the 400+ students in this course, many of whom are first-year and first-generation both, seem to find the book accessible, engaging, and even inspiring. Anderson's decision to foreground emerging cosmopolitan spaces in which civility, comity, and pluralistic values predominate helps students better appreciate contrasting ethnocentric spaces in which racial prejudice, discrimination, and segregation hold sway. Anderson's ability to deftly move between such social spaces, and his well-known penchant for exquisite writing and sophisticated sociological analysis, make this book as compelling as his previous highly regarded, award-winning urban ethnographic studies. In the end, the book does what ethnography is supposed to do: it provides a richly detailed portrait of the emergent "cosmopolitan canopy" alongside a bracing study of the "moments of acute disrespect" which demarcate today's experience of W.E.B. DuBois' "color line," that is, the line between the relatively few but hopeful cosmopolitan canopies and the unfortunately much more common ethnocentric worlds of prejudice and discrimination.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cosmopolitan Canopy and its Fault lines December 30, 2011
Format:Hardcover
I have read the book, along with Prof. Anderson's magnificant Code of the Street. He is slowly building a body of work based on a lifetime of observing with the keen eye of an artist though he is professionally credentialed as a sociologist. When he is finished observing, in my opinion he will have assembled a body of work that will set the new standard for defining the US urban community in terms of racial relations. His work, exemplied in The Cosmopolitan Canopy by his description of racial fault lines concealed at times by a glossy-civil behavior, should provoke a national conversation about how we might re-consider assumptions made based on stereotypes we have been conditioned to accept. This book and Code of the Street should be must reading for every American concerned about the future of our cities as ethnic and racial diversity escalates.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars August 22, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Of course this book is going to become a classic in the ethnographic literature. Anderson is amazingly perceptive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Well Executed Ethnography March 25, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A lot of smart people don't know much about ethnography - what it is, why it's conducted, or what it could be useful for. Cosmopolitan Canopy is a great example of how ethnography can be useful.

Anderson explores how physical space, behavior, and race intermingle in open spaces in central Philadelphia - an indoor market, a mall, and a park. He argues that some urban spaces create a 'cosmopolitan canopy' where people can (safely) act certain kinds of behaviors, focusing in particular on explorations of race.

The book a rare combination of being well-written (and easy and fun to read) and thorough and insightful, and shows how ethnography can be a valuable tool in exploring the topic of race in contemporary America.

This book belongs alongside Mitchell Duneier's classic Slim's Table, both for its exploration of race and as a first-rate example of how ethnography should be done.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read February 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book covered a lot of personal interactions that takes place in an urban environment. It also highlighted the ongoing struggle of race relations as it relates to the rural deep south environment. I found it most enlighting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars n
Fantastic read. Well thought out and easy to read and understand. We are using it as a discussion forum at my church. Read more
Published 2 months ago by LindaTapia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great read and fast delivery!
Published 5 months ago by Joy
2.0 out of 5 stars the intro said it all
I found this book interesting at first but it got repetitive and monotonous. The introductory walk up Market Street was thought provoking but then the pace slowed down and I found... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Deborah Lee Goldader
1.0 out of 5 stars no cover
The description stated that the book was in good condition. Upon receipt there was no cover and the pages were ripped. I am not sure I even got the right book!
Published 15 months ago by Denise Hoekstra
2.0 out of 5 stars 2 books, at least
I have followed Anderson's work and this book certainly departs from his earlier books in terms of tone and empirical object. Cosmopolitan Canopy reads as 2 books. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars social identity is negotiated
It is surprising that people imagine that black individuals are being reminded of "their place" or "put in their proper place", when the truth be told, through scapegoating, the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Kenneth Richard
3.0 out of 5 stars What Happened to the Anderson of "Codes of the Street?"
This book "The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life, by Elijah Anderson, scares the hell out of me. Read more
Published on March 17, 2013 by Herbert L Calhoun
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More About the Author

ELIJAH ANDERSON holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. His prominent works include the award-winning books "Code of the Street" and "Streetwise," and 2011's "The Cosmopolitan Canopy." His writings have also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review. He lives in New Haven and Philadelphia.

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