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Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness [Kindle Edition]

Matt Wray

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Book Description

White trash. The phrase conjures up images of dirty rural folk who are poor, ignorant, violent, and incestuous. But where did this stigmatizing phrase come from? And why do these stereotypes persist? Matt Wray answers these and other questions by delving into the long history behind this term of abuse and others like it. Ranging from the early 1700s to the early 1900s, Not Quite White documents the origins and transformations of the multiple meanings projected onto poor rural whites in the United States. Wray draws on a wide variety of primary sources—literary texts, folklore, diaries and journals, medical and scientific articles, social scientific analyses—to construct a dense archive of changing collective representations of poor whites.

Of crucial importance are the ideas about poor whites that circulated through early-twentieth-century public health campaigns, such as hookworm eradication and eugenic reforms. In these crusades, impoverished whites, particularly but not exclusively in the American South, were targeted for interventions by sanitarians who viewed them as “filthy, lazy crackers” in need of racial uplift and by eugenicists who viewed them as a “feebleminded menace” to the white race, threats that needed to be confined and involuntarily sterilized.

Part historical inquiry and part sociological investigation, Not Quite White demonstrates the power of social categories and boundaries to shape social relationships and institutions, to invent groups where none exist, and to influence policies and legislation that end up harming the very people they aim to help. It illuminates not only the cultural significance and consequences of poor white stereotypes but also how dominant whites exploited and expanded these stereotypes to bolster and defend their own fragile claims to whiteness.

Product Description


"?White trash? What did you just call me? Not Quite White provides the best social history of America?s most quizzical moniker in the racial-class system. From its colonial origins to the era of eugenics to the public health campaign to eradicate hookworm in the South, Matt Wray?s careful analysis documents the roots of this label, showing what its apparently oxymoronic nature tells us about the larger system of symbolic stratification in the United States.??Dalton Conley, author of Honky "Matt Wray's Not Quite White is a richly textured social history of how and why the nation has come to conceive, categorize, and routinely vilify that part of its population known as 'white trash.' Because this subject has rarely been the focus of systematic scholarly inquiry, that alone would be a notable achievement. Yet the book aims for more--to propose a boundary theory of why 'white trash' has had so many uses--from literature to politics to social science. By any measure, this book is a major contribution."--Troy Duster, New York University

About the Author

Matt Wray is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a 2006-2008 Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at Harvard University. He is a coeditor of "The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness"; "Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life"; and "White Trash: Race and Class in America."

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1315 KB
  • Print Length: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (13 Oct. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EHNT5H0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,161,392 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars concise, powerful, eloquent - should be required reading 29 Dec. 2006
By Ryan A. Brown - Published on
Matt Wray has put together an extremely powerful treatise on the cultural construction of poor whites in the U.S. With wonderful historical detail and depth, he has shown how poor whites have come to be perceived over three centuries, and in various regions of the United States. Wray's book is theoretically sophisticated in a direct, eloquent, and very "alive" way. As a result, it should appeal to a wide variety of academic and non-academic audiences.

For students of race and class in America, this really should be required reading. More than an historical text, this book is also deeply anthropological, psychological, and sociological. Extremely well empirically substantiated, it also sits right on the cutting edge of social theory.
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm a black man and after living in the United States of America for over 50 years I never understood how one ends up poor and WHITE in the USA. I used to think that if you were poor and white in the USA you had to work extra hard at destroying all your chances. Not even a criminal record can prevent you being hired if you are white I figured. I used to think poor white people were those poor by choice like "Hobos, or other men of the open road!"

I used to say the only reason a white man can be unemployed is because; he does not want to work. Reading Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness was an eye opening experience. I grew up in cities and went to better schools so I only met white folk that were among the better educated. If I saw a poor white guy he was usually the stereotypical tall thin gaunt white guy, with lizard like features, rotted teeth, modelled patchy skin from years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Yes I hear white guys lose awesome jobs and have to downsize but that's a far cry from being truly poor and homeless. Usually if I see a homeless white guy that is not a dope fiend he is usually stock raving bonkers. I hear about poor white trash living in trailer parks but, I always figured such people are just folk Hollywood made up to sell movies and TV shows. I used to think poor white folk were just Another Weird Urban Myth. I still can't build a satisfactory logical construct that allows for the realistic existance of truly dirt poor white people in the USA however, Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness lays an effective theroretical foundation for their supposed existance. This is a good book, it just embraces a subject that these days is more fiction than fact. I'm not saying true poor white people exist, I'm just saying I've never seen any outside of mentally ill homeless people, hopeless drunks \ dope fiends and exconvicts.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 25 Mar. 2013
By JL - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thoroughly researched and illuminating. This book is both engaging and academically sound. Matt Wray draws from history, sociology, and his own life experience to describe the American relationship with the "other" kind of white people.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Historiography! 20 Mar. 2014
By Anthony B. Bradley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an amazingly helpful book to learn the history of low-class white. Breathtaking and eye-opening. The book totally reoriented how I think race in America.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provides lots of context to the term 28 July 2013
By Anne M. Larrivee - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
If you're interested in the origins of the term white trash, this book provides a good multidisciplinary perspective. It was well-researched and make me reflect on many how the same prejudices continue to evolve in different forms and are imposed on many different social groups. Sometimes the chapters dragged on a little longer than necessary but overall it is an informative read that will make you think.
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