From stalwart segregation to reluctant moderation: Racial boundary-work and the process of state response
AuthorIrons, Jennifer C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractStates maintain order through the production and maintenance of classification systems that divide groups of people through boundaries, intentionally or inadvertently. The successful continuation of this boundary-work depends on the maintenance of state domination and hegemony. However, hegemony is always susceptible to challenge, and domination is a costly way to maintain power in a democratic system. In a case study of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, this research asks how the boundary-work of political elites, as a sense-making process meant to ensure order, was initiated, maintained, and altered during a crisis of racial hegemony. I examine how this organization, formed in 1956 by the Mississippi legislature to protect state sovereignty and segregation, transformed itself from an agency obsessed with the maintenance of a racial boundary to one committed to racial moderation. I also ask how the process through which the Commission responded to a crisis in racial hegemony informs our understanding of how elites accommodate change to stay in power. Files from the Sovereignty Commission regarding public relations and investigations are analyzed to understand the publicly visible and privately hidden strategies of the organization. Particular attention is paid to the discourse of these files, which provides insight into how cultural schemas are related to response. The analysis shows that a context of multiple audiences, and lack of full sovereignty, makes domination costly and the generation of consent complicated. White political elites lost the battle to maintain segregation, but ultimately retained power through the transformation of mutually constituting schemas and resources that composed the racial boundary between blacks and whites.
Degree ProgramGraduate College