Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Hugo Cerón-Anaya's "Privilege at Play"

Hugo Cerón-Anaya is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Lehigh University. His work focuses on social hierarchies, inequalities, and privilege, examining how class, race, and gender inform the behavior and perceptions of affluent people. He is particularly interested in the wide array of ordinary and everyday practices that reproduce privilege.

Cerón-Anaya applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Privilege at Play: Class, Race, Gender, and Golf in Mexico, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Privilege at Play reads:
…asked for my ID and then talked to the tournament organizers through a walkie-talkie to confirm I was an expected guest. Once he had confirmed my status, the guard politely gave me instructions to meet up with the organizing team by walking along the outside perimeter of the clubhouse, even though there was a shorter route through the building. Once I reached the organizing team, the manager welcomed me kindly but then quickly excused himself and apologized for not being able to talk at the moment because he was frantically supervising several groups of people who were making last-minute preparations, including hanging banners with the names of tournament sponsors, erecting large tents in the middle of the course, setting up the registration stand, and directing the arriving golfers to the continental breakfast being served in the bar.

Another member of the team suggested that I should go to the bar and have breakfast with the participating golfers. As in all the other clubs I visited, the 19th hole (the bar) was a spacious room with lots of tables and plenty of comfortable chairs. One wall was filled with large windows, offering patrons a nice view of the golf course. The organization of space inside the bar on that day, however, did not follow the pattern I observed in other clubs. The bar was divided into two sections. On one side, several tables were set up in an “L” shape near two walls. The tables were covered with platters full of fruit, bread, and individual servings of assorted cereals as well as large urns of coffee and tea. In the narrow space between the tables and the walls, harried workers moved swiftly, refilling food platters, picking up used plates and cups, and cleaning up spills. In the other section of the room, there were several large round tables where about 30 people sat in groups. Unlike the workers bustling behind the food service tables, those seated at the round tables were unhurried as they chatted with each other, read the newspaper, looked at their phones, or enjoyed breakfast by themselves. As I hung my jacket and a small bag on a chair at one of the round tables, I noticed that most of the people who were sitting by themselves at the table were staring at me. I smiled at them and then noticed that some of the people sitting in groups had also begun to stare. Many of the golfers continued to watch me closely as I walked over to the food service tables. Their curiosity waned when I grabbed a cup of coffee, filled two plates with fruit and bread, and asked one of the servers for help bringing my food to the table. Most of the golfers ignored me for the next half hour as I ate and read.

I grabbed the newspaper at the center of the table and began to skim it. One section was entitled “Con Clase [With Class].” The front-page article…
This page offers an accurate sample of my book’s writing style, providing a glimpse into how privilege manifests through everyday interactions in Mexico—the central theme of the book. Page 99 vividly describes a scene that took place in one of the most prestigious golf clubs outside of Mexico City, right before the starting of a prominent amateur golf tournament. The passage contrasts golfers' relaxed and unhurried behavior with workers’ subservient and expeditious attitudes. The book includes multiple descriptions of similar events that demonstrate that privilege is not a possession, but rather a set of social relations that generate feelings of social superiority. Page 99 does provide an excellent short cut into one of the central arguments of my work.

The last sentences of page 99 and the following paragraphs introduce the argument that class privilege and racial ideas cannot be disentangled in Mexico. The section explains that people can modify how others perceive their race based on economic resources. Unlike other studies arguing a similar idea, my book demonstrates that all Mexicans do not see race in the same "flexible" way. People located in the lower and middle classes possess more fluid views. In contrast, the upper-middle and the upper classes possess more rigid notions on the topic. This change creates an invisible but firm class and racial barrier between lower and middle classes, on the one hand, and the upper-middle and the upper classes, on the other. The book illuminates the argument by analyzing the relationship between golfers and caddies (the workers who assist players on the course). Privilege at Play also examines the paradoxical situation that affluent women face in these clubs. Based on their economic position, female club members are highly privileged, like any other golfer in this country. However, traditional gender roles relegate women to a second class status inside these sites—remarkably, the limited research on the topic in the United States points out a similar finding. In short, this book offers a compelling and multifaceted analysis of how privilege is lived and experienced in Mexico.
Learn more about Privilege at Play at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue