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on his part to engage in a creative act that was a part ofhim for most ofhis Ufe." It was a successful endeavor. Imagining Miami Ethnic PoUtics in a Postmodern World By Sheila L. Croucher University Press ofVirginia, 1997 235 pp. Cloth, $45.00; paper, $1 5.00 Reviewed by Raymond Arsenaurt, professor of history at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, author ofSt. Petersburg and the Florida Dream, iSSS-i9;o from University Press of Florida, 1 996, and coeditor of the "Florida History and Culture Series," also published by the University Press of Florida. Describing and explaining the transformation of modern Miami has become an academic and Uterary cottage industry. During the past fifteen years, dozens of historians, sociologists, noveUsts, journaUsts, and cultural critics have tried to make sense ofthe burgeoninginternational city that now stretches from the eastern border ofthe Everglades to the shores ofBiscayne Bay. Like the city itself, die recent Uterature on Miami is an uneven but fascinating mix ofcompeting visions and claims, ranging from serious scholarship and soUd reporting to unabashed hyperbole and opportunistic sensationaUsm. The best of this Uterature is very good indeed, most notably the work of Raymond Mohl, Alejandro Portes, Alex Stepick, Marvin Dunn, T. D. Allman, Maria Garcia,Joan Didion, and Carl Hiassen . Nevertheless, we are stiU awaiting a synthesis that does fuU justice to the complexities ofMiami's unique ethnic saga. The latest attempt at such a synthesis, Sheila Croucher's Imagining Miami, utiUzes postmodern sociological dieory to explain the hidden dynamics of the "Magic City." Consisting ofsix thematicaUy focused chapters, this ambitious and provocative book "examines the issues of image and identity in Miami" using "the metaphors associated with Miami . . . not as Uterary devices but as raw data for analysis." FoUowing a lengthy and theoretical introductory chapter entided "Postmodern Miami," Croucher examines a series ofsociaUy and poUticaUy constructed images of the city. Chapter Two analyzes the image of declension, the widely-held notion that ethnic conflict has transformed Miami from a "magic city" to a "paradise lost." Reviews 87 After a brief overview of the city's early history, the chapter traces the effects of the post-1959 Cuban exodus and later migrations, especiaUy the 1980 Mariel boat Uft and the periodic waves of Haitian "boat people" that sweUed the city's black population. According to Croucher, massive demographic change produced widespread social and political anxieties and higher levels ofsocial pathology, but it did not lead to anything approaching a complete social breakdown. Crime, drugs, and corruption are real problems in modern Miami, but the reaUties ofUfe in the city are more benign than most popular images would suggest. In what might weU be the most controversial section of the book, Chapter Three explores "the discourse of displacement," the common image that native Miamians have been overrun by an invasion of foreign migrants. Much of the chapter deals with the aUeged economic, cultural, and poUtical displacement of black Miamians. From the early 1960s on, it is often claimed, Cuban migrants wilUng to take low-skiU, low-paying jobs made it increasingly difficult for native black workers to find employment. Hampered by traditional racial prejudices, federal government poUcies that gave special advantages to anti-Castro Cubans, and the activities of middle-class and wealthy Cubans who aided their feUow countrymen, blacks were pushed off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. The displacement argument became an article of faith among black Miamians trying to explain the despair and downward mobiUty that plagued their neighborhoods . As Croucher correcdy points out, however, the local "Anglo" power structure skiUfuUy and cynicaUy used an exaggerated form ofthis argument for its own purposes. Pitting blacks against Cubans inhibited working-class soUdarity and non-Anglo coaUtion building, forestalling any broad-based chaUenges to the power and privileges ofthe existing eUte. It also provided an additional argument that could be used against the advocates ofUberaUzed immigration poUcies. Croucher's deUneation of the Anglo eUte's divide-and-conquer poUcy is persuasive , but she is on much shakier ground when she denies the vaUdity of the displacement argument itself. She presents Utde evidence to substantiate her counterclaims and makes only a half-hearted effort to explore...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 87-89
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
N
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