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American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691176864

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691176864.001.0001

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Cultural Diversity and Symbolic Boundaries

(p.258) Chapter Eight Othering
American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability

Robert Wuthnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the concept of othering. Othering is the process through which a person or group is turned into somebody different from us, an “other” from whom it is possible to distance ourselves. It is at heart a relational process that occurs in social interaction, real and imagined, as a person or group defines itself in contrast with and in opposition to someone else. The most salient instances in which othering occurs are the ones in which a cultural distinction based on a power differential or struggle for power exists. However, examples taken from the nineteenth century, in which ordinary people negotiated the meanings of middle-class respectability, demonstrate that significant symbolic boundaries often were not sharply defined and often did not fall neatly along major cultural fault lines.

Keywords:   American middle class, nineteenth century, othering, American culture, social interaction

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