Acclaimed ethnographer and Yale University sociology professor Elijah Anderson was the recipient of the 2017 William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice.
Both Anderson and the award’s namesake, WSU graduate and Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson, visited WSU Pullman for the ceremony, which took place at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.
Anderson is a distinguished urban ethnographer whose seminal works include A Place on the Corner (1978), Streetwise (1990), and Code of the Street (1999). These works illuminate the dynamics and struggles of life in racially segregated inner cities.
Wilson introduced Anderson and lauded his clear and persuasive writing and unique method of collecting data through participant observation. Wilson also noted that WSU professor emeritus Jim Short—who was in attendance—wrote a blurb for the dust jacket of A Place on the Corner.
Anderson spoke about his newest book, Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life. This work examines how people from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds gather in certain urban spaces under a metaphorical canopy. This canopy—under which different races eat, shop, and coexist—is fairly harmonious.
But Anderson also noted how perceived “color lines” under the canopy can still be reinforced—especially when considering how African Americans navigate those spaces. Often, African Americans under the canopy must show that the stereotypes associated with the “iconic ghetto” do not apply to them. According to Anderson, this shows a striking “deficit of credibility” that black residents are forced to overcome under the canopy.
Following his talk, Anderson took questions on broader topics related to race in the U.S.
Past recipients of the William Julius Wilson Award for the Advancement of Social Justice—which awarded biennially—include television producer and journalist David Simon, sociologist Robert Sampson, and prison advocate and forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni.