In Intersections of Race, Gender, and Precarity: Navigating Insecurities in an American City, Stephanie Baran argues that when it comes to assistance the United States government often creates more problems than it solves. These institutions are not in the business of creating a pathway for people to escape poverty, often compounding that poverty instead. Through a two-year ethnographic study of poverty and insecurity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the author shows how people navigate situations of poverty through interviews with recipients and organizations as well as those working at a local community pantry. Consequently, research uncovered how local food organizations with connections to the Milwaukee Chapter of the Black Panther Party hide their more radical roots to protect food donations from white donors, in essence protecting white fragility. People are far closer to experiencing poverty than they realize, as shown by the Government Shutdown of 2019 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and typically have incomplete and inaccurate ideas of poverty as well as how people can experience upward mobility. Intersections of Race, Gender, and Precarity reveals this gap through a focus on how all these factors show up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Stephanie M. Baran is instructor at Nicholls State University.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Note on Methodology
Chapter 1“Let’s go eat in the office”: Life at a Milwaukee Food Pantry
Chapter 2Benefits: How Public Perceptions Hurt Recipient Access
Chapter 3Perceptions of Poverty
Chapter 4 Food Insecurity in an American City
Chapter 5Outside the pantry
Chapter 6What happens when a government ‘fails’ to act?
Chapter 7“I feel like a rat in a race”: The Benefit Experience
Chapter 8Hunger Task Force: Your Free & Local Food Bank
Conclusion An Ode to My Time at Feed the Need
About the Author
Written in an invitingly accessible tone, Dr. Baran elucidates how social class, race, and gender influence the ways welfare recipients are negatively perceived by others and how these biased perceptions affect welfare recipients’ abilities to navigate their own social milieu. The principled consideration and civic engagement Dr. Baran provided her participants and their community serve as an exemplar for how sociologists should ethically conduct community-based field research. This apt critique of problems in our current welfare system encourages readers to reflect on our own social standing and recognize that the majority of us are in much more precarious positions than we may have previously thought.
This book involves a qualitative, ethnographic study of poverty and economic insecurity among residents of Milwaukee, WI. Baran is particularly interested in how social class, race, and gender impact the perceptions of welfare recipients and other aspects of their lives. The author shares valuable data particularly related to how contemporary issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement affected the lives of those living in poverty in American urban centers over the past few years. This book will be of most interest to scholars and students of sociology, urban studies, and urban anthropology with a possible secondary audience among scholars studying the delivery of human services. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.