[URBANTH-L] AAA Panel on middle class

Patricia Taber ptaber at anth.ucsb.edu
Fri Mar 24 11:02:38 EST 2006

Session proposal for 2006 American Anthropological Association

Shifting Sands:  Middle Class Identity and Globalization


This year’s AAA theme reminds us that we are at a critical juncture in this
historical moment. The curtain that fell in the crossroads of the century’s
turn has taken with it any illusions of stability we may have held in our
professional or personal lives. The rapid blend of new technologies and global
capitalism has destabilized cautiously-kept boundaries between ideas, values,
practices and identities across the world.
Our purpose in this panel is to open a discussion on the emergence of new class
identities.  More specifically, we interrogate the expanding boundaries of the
middle class that both play a part in, and result from, these transformations.
Our focus is both on the experiences of the people with whom we do research and
on the analytical concept of middle class we employ in our ethnographies. As
instances of global capitalism become effective elements in people’s daily
experiences, and as they look for new opportunities to improve, maintain or
transform their lives and lifestyles, they may find themselves balancing
precariously at the intersection, or pushing at the limits of class boundaries.
It is precisely the instability brought with rapid transformations, which brings
new prospects, desires and hopes, that can also endanger the very sense of
stability that undergirds middle class identity. How do people negotiate such
risks? Do they fall, do they rise, or do they revise the elements that
constitute these limits in order to maintain or enhance their positions? People
construct their models of middle class membership in different ways, taking into
account a multitude of objects, values and practices that are contextual and
contingent. Therefore, we ask, how do they adapt their models to the changes?
At the same time, we ask ourselves as researchers, how can we use the concept
of middle class as an analytical tool to help us understand the formation and
reformulation of social, economic and cultural boundaries? Has it lost its
analytical strength as its limits blur, or will its protean character now help
us to observe situations that are themselves volatile?


Angela Torresan, PRODOC
Departamento de Antropologia/PPGAS
Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte
RN, Natal, Brasil
angelainthesky at yahoo.com

Patricia Taber, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Barbara
ptaber at anth.ucsb.edu

Please send 250-word abstract to:  Patricia Taber at:  pattimail at mindspring.com
by March 27.  Please include your name and university affiliation.  We also
welcome interested discussants for this panel.

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