Battered Black Women and Welfare Reform

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

By Dána-Ain Davis

Subjects: African American Studies
Series: SUNY series in African American Studies
Paperback : 9780791468449, 229 pages, August 2006
Hardcover : 9780791468432, 229 pages, August 2006

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Table of contents

1. Three Women
2. Regulating Women’s Lives
3. Oh Sister, Shelter Me
4. Ceremonies of Degradation
5. No Magic in the Market: Mandatory Work and Training Programs
6. The Theater of Maternal and Child-care Politics
7. There’s No Place (Like Home)
8. Strategic Missions
9. Meticulous Rituals of Power and Structural Violence

Examines the consequences of welfare reform for Black women fleeing domestic violence.


This timely and compelling ethnography examines the impact of welfare reform on women seeking to escape domestic violence. Dána-Ain Davis profiles twenty-two women, thirteen of whom are Black, living in a battered women's shelter in a small city in upstate New York. She explores the contradictions between welfare reform's supposed success in moving women off of public assistance and toward economic self-sufficiency and the consequences welfare reform policy has presented for Black women fleeing domestic violence. Focusing on the intersection of poverty, violence, and race, she demonstrates the differential treatment that Black and White women face in their entanglements with the welfare bureaucracy by linking those entanglements to the larger political economy of a small city, neoliberal social policies, and racialized ideas about Black women as workers and mothers.

Dána-Ain Davis is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purchase College, State University of New York.