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This article provides a critique of work on urban public space that touts its potential as a haven from racial and class conflicts and inequalities. I argue that social structures and hierarchies embedded in the capitalist system and the state’s social control over the racialized poor are not suspended even in places that appear governed by civility and tolerance, such as those under Anderson’s “cosmopolitan canopy”. Durable inequality, residential segregation, nativism, and racism inevitably shape what happens in diverse public spaces. Using an ethnographic study of an urban farmers’ market in New York City, I show that appearances of everyday cosmopolitanism, tolerance, and pleasure in difference coexist with conflict and reproduction of inequalities that are inextricable because the space is embedded within larger structures, institutions, and cultural paradigms. By focusing on meaning-making in interaction, I analyze situated accomplishment of diversity and consider the implications for other types of urban spaces.


This is the author's manuscript of a work originally published in City & Community, available at doi:10.1111/cico.12371.



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