Odd Tribes

Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People

Odd Tribes

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 3 photos, 1 table Published: November 2005

Author: John Hartigan

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Odd Tribes challenges theories of whiteness and critical race studies by examining the tangles of privilege, debasement, power, and stigma that constitute white identity. Considering the relation of phantasmatic cultural forms such as the racial stereotype “white trash” to the actual social conditions of poor whites, John Hartigan Jr. generates new insights into the ways that race, class, and gender are fundamentally interconnected. By tracing the historical interplay of stereotypes, popular cultural representations, and the social sciences’ objectifications of poverty, Hartigan demonstrates how constructions of whiteness continually depend on the vigilant maintenance of class and gender decorums.

Odd Tribes engages debates in history, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies over how race matters. Hartigan tracks the spread of “white trash” from an epithet used only in the South prior to the Civil War to one invoked throughout the country by the early twentieth century. He also recounts how the cultural figure of “white trash” influenced academic and popular writings on the urban poor from the 1880s through the 1990s. Hartigan’s critical reading of the historical uses of degrading images of poor whites to ratify lines of color in this country culminates in an analysis of how contemporary performers such as Eminem and Roseanne Barr challenge stereotypical representations of “white trash” by claiming the identity as their own. Odd Tribes presents a compelling vision of what cultural studies can be when diverse research methodologies and conceptual frameworks are brought to bear on pressing social issues.


“As it explicates these meanings culturally and historically, Odd Tribes becomes a provocative, nuanced understanding of whiteness specifically and race generally, and a productive re consideration of the value and efficacy of cultural analysis.” — Daniel Gustav Anderson, Rocky Mountain Review

“Hartigan contributes creatively to “whiteness” studies. . . .” — Bruce Baum, Journal of American Ethnic History

“Recommended.” — J. A. Fiola, Choice

“Wide-ranging and often insightful. . . .” — Anthony Harkins, Journal of Southern History

"[A]n important and critical engagement with what is sometimes called 'whiteness studies.' . . . Using his research in Detroit, Hartigan convincingly traces the varied and varying way in which race is lived in a context that is highly racialized, and yet not all social encounters are necessarily about race." — Bridget Byrne, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Illuminating. . . . There is a lot in Odd Tribes that will appeal to readers interested in general discussions of race and American social life. It's a good read for Detroiters interested in how a white minority manifests itself as a cultural anomaly and those wondering how urban demographics are tending in the early 21st century." — Eric Waggoner, Metro Times (Detroit)

"Hartigan's sophisticated and knowledgeable observations about the confluences of race and class among working class whites are invaluable for those in Appalachian studies who take seriously the complex challenge of interpreting whiteness in a context of regional dispossession."
— Barbara Ellen Smith, Journal of Appalachian Studies

“Beautifully written, theoretically sophisticated, and passionately iconoclastic, Odd Tribes should be required reading for anyone interested in the study of race and social inequalities. Its difficult lessons—for both liberal academics and antiracist practitioners—need to be absorbed and understood.” — Matt Wray, coeditor of The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness

“For John Hartigan Jr., race is not a fixed, abstract social fact but a fluid, heterogeneous, situated field of racializing practices. Odd Tribes deftly develops this approach through a series of lively accounts of how lower-class whites have been racialized in ways that simultaneously normalize whiteness. An elegant, fresh, provocative, often surprising, and ultimately hopeful work that argues forcefully for a cultural perspective on racial matters.” — Susan Harding, author of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John Hartigan Jr. is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Part I

1. Picturing the Underclass: Myth Making in the Inner City 33

2. Blood Will Tell: The Nationalization of White Trash 59

3. Unpopular Culture: The Case of White Trash 109

4. Reading Trash: Deliverance and the Cultural Poetics of White Trash 135

5. Talking Trash: White Poverty and Marked Forms of Whiteness 147

6. Green Ghettos and the White Underclass 167

Part II

7. Establishing the Fact of Whiteness 187

8. Locating White Detroit 205

9. Object Lessons in Whiteness: Antiracism and the Study of White Folks 231

10. Cultural Analysis: The Case of Race 257

Notes 289

Reference 327

Index 355
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3597-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3584-9
Publicity material