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Street Therapists

Race, Affect, and Neoliberal Personhood in Latino Newark

Street Therapists

Race, Affect, and Neoliberal Personhood in Latino Newark

Drawing from almost a decade of ethnographic research in largely Brazilian and Puerto Rican neighborhoods in Newark, New Jersey, Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, in Street Therapists,examines how affect, emotion, and sentiment serve as waypoints for the navigation of interracial relationships among US-born Latinos, Latin American migrants, blacks, and white ethnics. Tackling a rarely studied dynamic approach to affect, Ramos-Zayas offers a thorough—and sometimes paradoxical—new articulation of race, space, and neoliberalism in US urban communities.

After looking at the historical, political, and economic contexts in which an intensified connection between affect and race has emerged in Newark, New Jersey, Street Therapists engages in detailed examinations of  various community sites—including high schools, workplaces, beauty salons, and funeral homes, among others—and secondary sites in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and San Juan to uncover the ways US-born Latinos and Latin American migrants interpret and analyze everyday racial encounters through a language of psychology and emotions. As Ramos-Zayas notes, this emotive approach to race resurrects Latin American and Caribbean ideologies of “racial democracy” in an urban US context—and often leads to new psychological stereotypes and forms of social exclusion. Extensively researched and thoughtfully argued, Street Therapists theorizes the conflictive connection between race, affect, and urban neoliberalism.  


“There are many books that try to look at affect/emotion and contemporary urban life, or at the logic of neoliberalism, or even at the many complex links between race/ethnicity/multiculturalism and gender/sexuality, but I can’t think of one that takes them all on—and so compellingly. Even given the many variables important to Street Therapists, never is there a sense that it is trying to do too much. Indeed, Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas does a masterful job of emphasizing emotion/affect as significant to the social science of diverse urban communities while putting all of these other themes in conversation with that central concern. It is a tremendously smart, useful, and ambitious piece of urban ethnography.”--John L. Jackson Jr., University of Pennsylvania

John L. Jackson Jr.

 “The comparative focus of Street Therapists on the experience of different Latino groups and its attention to nuance and detail is unique. Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas uses conversations carried out at workplaces and beauty parlors to open doors to the complex ways in which Latinos in Newark think about their emerging racial identities, and then she shows how these constructs reinforce the structure and hierarchy of race relations in this predominantly black city. Following an example set by Bourdieu, she deploys the ‘structured anecdote’ to expose how popular consciousness is framed and how through everyday interactions it is reproduced. Given the growth of the Latino population in the US and the dynamic processes through which the racial and political identities of Latinos are being shaped in different social contexts, Ramos-Zayas’s work will serve as a powerful reference point for understanding these processes as they unfold.”--Pedro Noguera, New York University

Pedro Noguera

"Street Therapists offers an innovative way to locate affect and emotion within a critical, political economic stance. In her perceptive ethnography of Latino Newark, emotions are analyzed through local urban practices and politics of everyday life. Ramos-Zayas contributes to a more nuanced study of neoliberal urbanism by developing the concepts of the emotive urban landscape to capture the richness of an embodied and situated understanding of race, ethnicity, and social exclusion."—Setha Low, City University of New York

Setha Low, City University of New York

Table of Contents


Introduction: Street Therapists: Race, Affect, and Neoliberal Personhood in Latino Newark

One The Feel That Sells Newark: From “Aggressive” City to Neoliberal-Friendly Emotional Regime

Two Delinquent Citizenship: Self-Help Organizations, Military Recruitment, and the Politics of Worth in Puerto Rican Newark

Three Cartography of Racial Democracy: Cultural Excess, Racial Play, and Universal Sentimentality in Luso-Brazilian Newark

Four Real-Life Telenovelas, Self-Care, and Stereotypes of the Tropics: Sexing Race and Emotion in the City

Five Of “Black Lesbians,” Hate Crimes, and Crime-Talk: The Sexuality of “Aggression” in the City

Six Learning Affect, Embodying Race: Cosmopolitan Competency and Urban Emotional Epistemologies

Final Remarks and Reflections


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