France Winddance Twine Twine discusses the impact that growing up in segregated Chicago has had on her sociological imagination, and how this experience continues to shape her scholarly journeys. Trained as an anthropologist and sociologist, Twine discusses why she embraces an interdisciplinary perspective in her work. She weaves theory, narrative, and empirical rigor to provide intricate understandings of racial formations in places such as Brazil and Great Britain
I grew up in Chicago during the 1970s. Chicago is a very racially segregated city. White supremacy fl ourished-though challenged and mediated by a visible Black middle class. When I was 6 years old, with insurance money from an accident on her day job, Frances, my maternal grandmother bought a home in a working-class Irish American neighborhood that was in transition. As a child attending a Catholic school, I stood out as one of the few U.S. Black students among a population of predominantly Irish and Pol-
ish second generation immigrants. It was a challenging experience at times and exposed me to both white racism and white anti-racism at a young age. Within a few years white fl ight radically changed the demographics of the neighborhood and it became a Black neighborhood. On occasion, I accompanied my grandmother, who was then in her 70s, to her part-time job as a domestic servant for an upper middle-class Jewish family who had moved to Highland Park. We would drive to their white suburban enclave, also a product of white fl ight. Th is family had two daughters, one who was my age. Th ey invited me to their daughters’ birthday parties. I was the token Black girl but I was treated kindly and I learned a lot of important lessons about what conventional sociology calls “stratifi cation” from these experiences. I was a good girl, which meant that I was quiet and kept my opinions to myself. I learned to quietly monitor the diff erences in the quality of my life, which I had thought was adequate. We lived on a quiet street among U.S. Blacks and the occasional West Indian-all two parent and employed families. My mother was the only divorced woman on the block which was a stigma at that time. I quietly recorded the diff erences between their lives and mine. Th e produce in the Highland Park grocery stores was more diverse and appeared to be fresher and of a better quality. I began to desire foods that were not available in the local store so my grandmother would drive further away to buy foods that were deemed “exotic” like mangoes and kiwi and asparagus. I had never seen artichokes until we went to the suburban stores. When I went shopping with Ms. Z. there was produce from places like Chile, Mexico, and other countries I had no familiarity with at that time-foods that I never saw in the stores we shopped in on the South Side. I slowly began to become aware of the gap between my life and their life in material terms.