by Ingrid A. Nelson
University of Chicago Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-0-226-83683-6 | Paper: 978-0-226-83685-0 | eISBN: 978-0-226-83684-3
Library of Congress Classification LB3608.N45 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 378.19829

How the policies of elite colleges allow racially themed parties to continue by perpetuating the status quo.
On a cold February evening, a group of students at Bowdoin College, an elite and historically white liberal arts college in Maine, gathered to drink tequila at a party referred to as “not not a fiesta.” By noon the next day, Instagram videos of students sporting miniature sombreros had spread like wildfire through campus. Over the next few weeks, national media outlets would broadcast the embarrassing fallout. But the frequency with which similar parties recur on campuses across the United States begs the question: what, if anything, do undergraduates learn about race and racism from these encounters?

Drawing on interviews and archival research, Yet Another Costume Party Debacle shows us how colleges both contest and reproduce racialized systems of power. Sociologist Ingrid A. Nelson juxtaposes how students and administrators discuss race with how they behave in the aftermath of racially charged campus controversies. Nelson spoke in-depth with students and other key players in several controversial parties—“Cracksgiving,” a “gangster party,” and the “not not a fiesta” tequila party—at Bowdoin. The college’s administrative response failed to encourage productive dialogue or address larger questions about race on campus. Nelson shows how the underlying campus structures at elite liberal arts colleges foster an environment that is ripe for racially charged incidents; we shouldn’t be surprised when we read about yet another costume party debacle. Nelson advises how we can take charge of diversity on our campuses by changing the systems that bring students together and drive them apart.