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Constructing Race and Civility in Urban America

Jennifer Lee
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Jennifer Lee: Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine, 3253 Social Sciences Plaza B, Irvine, CA 92697-5100, USA, jenlee@uci.edu

Urban Studies, 2006, vol. 43, issue 5-6, 903-917

Abstract: Images of violence and conflict often go hand-in-hand with life in Black, urban communities, an association buttressed by the sensational media accounts that highlight crime, firebombings and riots. Past scholarly research also depicts interethnic relations in Black neighbourhoods as conflict-ridden, with immigrant merchants pitted against Black customers. However, this paper argues that previous research has been biased toward conflict and controversy and does not reflect the full range of commercial life in Black communities. Based on in-depth interviews and ethnographic research, it investigates both interethnic conflict and co-operation between African American, Jewish and Korean merchants on the one hand and their Black customers on the other, in five predominantly Black neighbourhoods in New York City and Philadelphia. The paper dispels the myth of the ubiquity of urban conflict and argues that civility, routine and 'business as usual' are the norm.

Date: 2006
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