Minorities in the Middle

A Cross-Cultural Analysis

By Walter P. Zenner

Subjects: Ethnicity
Series: SUNY series in Ethnicity and Race in American Life
Paperback : 9780791406434, 224 pages, July 1991
Hardcover : 9780791406427, 224 pages, July 1991

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Table of contents



1. Middleman Minority Theories

2. Minority Moneylenders in Traditional Societies

3. Anti-Middleman Ideology and the Diffusion of Anti-Semitism

4. Ethnic Solidarity in Three Middleman Minorities

5. Protestant Middlemen

6. The Transformation of a Middleman Minority: Jews in the United States



Subject Index

Author Index


Throughout the world, certain ethnic groups have made a living through trade and have found a place for themselves in their societies' middle strata. At times, these 'middlemen minorities' have aroused the envy of their neighbors and been subjected to a variety of persecutions. In this book, Walter P. Zenner examines explanations for this phenomenon and analyzes such groups as the Jews, the Chinese, the Scots, and the South Asians abroad.

Walter P. Zenner is Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author of Persistence and Flexibility: Anthropological Perspectives on the American Jewish Experience, also published by SUNY Press


"What impresses me most about this book is that it is looking at a topic which is very fresh. If you look at the literature, there is considerable mention of the 'minorities in the middle,' but never any real grounding of the analyses in any kind of empirical data. What you have in this piece is that missing link; not only theorizing, but giving specific cases.

"The notion is that there are ethnic, racial groups who have somehow 'made it' in American society. While that is true, what we find in this book is the wonderful story of the ups and downs of the middlemen minorities. It is not, then, a lineal process, but one that moves back and forth, and I am not at all certain if those groups are all 'successful. ' I think that is one wonderful contribution; it sets the stage for a rethinking of the question of how Jews or other groups have been able to do so well, and in the Jewish case, to monopolize certain sectors or industries in the American economy. Zenner shows the process of how this has occurred, but also how they were unsuccessful in other attempts, thus exploring the mystique of Jewish success in business. " — Felix Padilla, DePaul University