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Bookbeat: April 2004

Publications from CLAS faculty.

White Men on Race: Power, Privilege, and the Shaping of Cultural Consciousness

White Men on Raceby Joe Feagin, Department of Sociology and Eileen O'Brien,
(Beacon Press, 2004)
Available through Amazon

With 15 books published in the area of race since 1991, Sociology Professor Joe Feagin has still managed to find untouched territory with his latest publication, White Men on Race. The book looks at how upper class white men view race and their encounters with minority groups—a field Feagin says has never been written about. "Countless interviews and surveys have been conducted, but nothing specific as to how elite white men view race," he says. "This book now provides the insight to what these men think about race."

The book is based on the interviews and surveys of about 100 upper-class white men. Feagin, and co-author Eileen O'Brien from the State University of New York Brockport, utilized college students to interview upper-middle-class men in financial and corporate fields from various regions of the country. More than 200 men were questioned, though only 100 were used for the book. The findings reveal how these men view a range of topics including racial conflicts, black families, affirmative action, immigration, crime and expectations for the country's future.

Joe FeaginFeagin says one of the more interesting findings of the research was that most of these men have relatively few personal interactions with African Americans. The few interactions that some of these men do recall are from growing up with maids or servants. In addition, those who attended public schools associate African Americans with athletics and remember "playing ball" with a few black youngsters. "This 'white bubble' of segregation, where whites seldom interact with minorities on an equal footing, causes elite white males to underestimate the effects of discrimination," explains Feagin. "And while overt racism is rare, among the group there is a pattern of stereotyping and subtle bias that is seen." This pattern is part of what the authors term a "collective white consciousness."

Feagin, who is regarded by many as the most published scholar in the field of race and racism, says he will begin using the book as the text for a course, Black and White Americans, he will teach at Texas A&M University in the fall. "Understanding the consciousness of elite white men is critical as this group has the most power," Feagin says, "This information is important for the present and future to maintain, or change, race relations."

—Kimberly A. Lopez

Shea Butter Republic

Shea Butter Republicby Brenda Chalfin, Department of Anthropology
(Routledge, 2004)
Available through Amazon

Indigenous to the savanna zone of West Africa, and central to the livelihoods of rural women in the region, shea has, for more than a century, circulated on the world market as a low priced and little-noticed industrial raw material. In Shea Butter Republic, Chalfin presents an ethnographic study that traces the history of shea from a pre- to a post-industrial commodity with the aim of providing a deeper understanding of emerging trends in tropical commodification, cosmopolitan consumption, global economic restructuring, and rural livelihoods. Chalfin challenges the assumption that globalization makes state institutions and authority unnecessary and undercuts the neo-liberal argument that streamlining state operations yields greater efficiency and accountability. She also explores how state authority, during both the colonial and post-colonial periods, is sustained through various projects of market building.

— Publisher

Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk Bishop in Late Antiquity

Renouncing the Worldby Andrea Sterk, Department of History
(Harvard University Press, 2004)

Available through Amazon

Although an ascetic ideal of leadership had both classical and biblical roots, it found particularly fertile soil in the monastic fervor of the fourth through sixth centuries. Church officials were increasingly recruited from monastic communities, and the monk-bishop became the dominant model of ecclesiastical leadership in the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium. In an interesting paradox, Sterk explains that "from the world-rejecting monasteries and desert hermitages of the east came many of the most powerful leaders in the church and civil society as a whole." She explores the social, political, intellectual, and theological grounding for this development. Focusing on four foundational figures—Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom—she traces the emergence of a new ideal of ecclesiastical leadership: the merging of ascetic and episcopal authority embodied in the monk-bishop.

— Publisher

Jane Gibson

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