Focusing on specific assemblages that have historically been seen as communities of lower-class and underclass individuals and families, this essay examines the history of members of these “communities” who come to inhabit not the positions of the down-and-out, where they allegedly belong, but those of the more comfortable, educated, professional middle classes. It asks what the history of the struggles of these subaltern middle classes tells us about the limits of the middle-class idea and about the conditions necessary for the consolidation of particular groups as middle-class, modern, and unmarked.

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