White, middle-class Americans are one of the most understudied groups in the anthropology of the United States - perhaps because of their hegemonic presence in society. This book offers the first ethnography of 'white middle-class America' from a non-native perspective.
Yasushi Watanabe, a Japanese anthropologist, examines two social groups in the Boston area to reveal an intimate portrait of the 'American' family. These two groups are at opposite ends of the social spectrum in terms of religious, ethnic and class backgrounds, and in terms of cultural tastes and lifestyles. The first group is upper-middle class, Anglo Saxon, Protestant, mostly Unitarian or Episcopalian - often identified as archetypical middle-class America. This is a wealthy group that includes descendants of the 'Boston Brahmins', one of America's oldest aristocratic families, closely related to Democratic hopeful John Kerry. The second group is working-class or lower middle-class, Irish Catholic, often referred to as 'Boston Irish'.
Informed by a wide range of social theory, The American Family is a fascinating study of family dynamics in modern America that explores how Americans construct their social realities and cultural histories, and how modern society shapes their lived experience.
Yasushi Watanabe is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Information and the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Keio University, Japan. He has been a Senior Associate of St Antony's College, Oxford University and a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology.
'This illuminating book will be particularly useful in courses on inequality, community, and culture in the United States'
Michle Lamont, Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
'A fascinating look inside the lives of Boston's elite and working class families. It is a magnficent contribution to our understanding of social change and
class culture, seen from the inside of his subjects' lives'
Katherine Newman, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University
'A sympathetic yet trenchant and often regretful analysis of the American boast of having achieved a happy fusion of individualism with democracy'
Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
'A superb ethnography of the recent history and latter-day fates of the contemporary descendants of
Brahmin lineages. Watanabe has provided insights and material that will be indispensable to American studies in the broadest terms'
George E. Marcus, Professor of Anthropology, Rice University