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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Part I. Terrain

Introduction 3

1. "We Came Here to Be Different": The Brown Family and Remapping Detroit 38

Part II. Scripts

2. Renovations 81

3. Narratives of Protest and Play 122

Part III. Bodies

4. Sex, Gender, and Scripted Bodies 155

5. The Move Experiment 185

Epilogue 237

Notes 243

References 263

Index 273

About the Author

Aimee Meredith Cox is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Fordham University.


"Cox shows that 'Black girls' lives matter' and how their voices articulate that. This ethnographic study of young black women and girls is an essential read and companion to the larger picture of African American lives in urban settings, which are often mired in poverty, crime, and despair. However, this rare study brings hope rather than hopelessness as it delves into the heart of human expression and gives voice to a will to live beyond any limitations of what poverty may dictate in contemporary North America." -- M. Christian * Choice *
"This lively book, Cox's account of her work as a participant-observer in a Detroit homeless shelter for teen girls, reveals both the many obstacles faced by young women of color and the creative ways in which they use self-expression (language, music, fashion, and dance) to find a new way to live otherwise. The stories, harrowing and fascinating, shine a light on the lives of our least empowered citizens-teenage African American girls-while Cox's thinking helps us see the power of being able to shape-shift." -- Anne Fernald * Public Books *
"A creative and compelling ethnographic study, Shapeshifters challenges us to revise the ways we think, write, and theorize about young black women, starting with making their voices and self-analyses the subject of the book. Rather than analyzing the girls' narratives through the lens of academic theories, even those of black feminists, Cox asks that 'we open ourselves up to a conversation with them.'"

-- Farah Jasmine Griffin * Public Books *
"Shapeshifters is an engaging, powerful read of the lived experience of young Black girls' lives that intersects with race, class, gender, and agency, providing a fresh perspective on citizenship, change, and standpoint." -- Olivia R. Hetzler * Gender & Society *
"While so much urban ethnography excludes women altogether, and black women in particular, Shapeshifters centers young black women, not simply as the subject of the book, but as authors of a world. Shapeshifters proceeds from a position in which black life matters, where young women are sharp eyed critics and citizen-subjects all too aware of where their rights and responsibilities are limited or truncated, and further aware (and willing) to adopt the innovative tactics they need to surmount or work around said limitations." -- Sameena Mulla * Anthropoliteia *
"It is movement-its unpredictability, its interactions with space, and its many evolutions-that organizes Cox's work and makes it an invaluable contribution to studies of black girlhood, feminist theory, and ethnography." -- Danielle Bainbridge * TDR: The Drama Review *
"Shapeshifters is a courageous and rich exploration of the lives of power and agency of Black girls and women. . . . A theoretically rich and ethnographically sound body of work." -- Denice D. Nabinett * Journal of Negro Education *
"Any serious scholar working at the intersection of race and gender, or at the nexus where theories of identity meet conceptualizations of a just and inclusive polity, will benefit from taking the time to engage with Cox's work."
-- John L. Jackson Jr * Chronicle of Higher Education *

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