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The Missing Middle Class: Race, Suburban Ethnography, and the Challenges of “Studying Up”

Urban Ethnography

ISBN: 978-1-78769-034-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

ISSN: 1047-0042

Publication date: 22 October 2019

Abstract

Since ethnographers tend to study poor, urban black communities most often, it is not surprise that the methodological literature contains a wealth of information designed to help scholars do this kind of work. Far less is known about the challenges ethnographers face when “studying up,” that is exploring middle and upper-middle-class communities. Less is know too about the challenges of working in a suburb versus an urban community. This chapter helps to fill that void. By chronicling the challenges I faced in the field while collecting the data for Blue-Chip Black, my book about the identity options of middle and upper-middle-class suburban blacks, I show that the strategies ethnographers of the urban poor employ in their work are not necessarily transferable to studies of the upper classes. I identify a set of methodological tools appropriate for analysis of the upper classes. I then turn to the theoretical contributions of my study as a way of showing the kinds of insights that can be gleaned from a study of those near the top of the class ladder.

Keywords

Citation

Lacy, K. (2019), "The Missing Middle Class: Race, Suburban Ethnography, and the Challenges of “Studying Up”", Urban Ethnography (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 143-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1047-004220190000016011

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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