May 17, 2004 – Matt Wray: “Culture, Differentiation, and Inequalities: Symbolic Boundaries and the Case of “Poor White Trash””

Monday, May 17 / 3:30 PM / Oakes Mural Room


Matt Wray is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and works on whiteness, race, youth culture, and class issues. His publications include the forthcoming Not Quite White? Science, Medicine, and Poor Rural Whites (Duke, 2005) and the co-edited volume White Trash: Race and Class in America (with Annalee Newitz, Routledge, 1997). He writes that his talk “develops a theory of how ‘symbolic boundaries’ (i.e., concepts, prejudices, beliefs, norms, attitudes, distinctions, etc.) form the basis for cultural difference and how over time, they may result in ‘social boundaries’
(i.e., laws, morals, institutionalized identities, discrimination, etc.) that serve to divide and stratify societies. I explore these theoretical musings through the historical and contemporary case of ‘poor white trash,’ a stigmatizing term that emerged in the 1830s and that remains in wide use today.”