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Elijah Anderson

The New American Color Line

October 9, 2014

Dr. Anderson’s most recent book, The Cosmopolitan Canopy (Norton, 2011) systematically investigates Philadelphia as the global metropolis: “Strongly affected by the forces of industrialism, immigration, and globalization, the American city of today is more racially, ethnically, and socially diverse than ever, with profound cleavages dividing one social group from another. As anonymous pedestrians actively “see but don’t see” one another, skin color becomes a social border that complicates public observations of city life. In navigating such spaces, people often divert their gazes, looking up, looking down, or looking away, and feign ignorance of the diverse mix of strangers they encounter.

Defensively, they “look past” or “look through” the next person, distancing themselves from strangers and effectively consigning their counterparts to a form of social oblivion. Anderson’s latest research continues his inquiry on race relations, building on W.E.B. DuBois’ work, and lays the groundwork for understanding society and the New American Color Line.