For Delany the real issue within the modern metropolis is how to encourage contact across differences of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and especially class. It is this contact that provokes and underwrites the security, possibility, contentment, and astonishment that are the necessary ingredients of successful urban life.


Here is where Delany mounts his most trenchant theoretical intervention. That is to say, he is especially careful to note that not all forms of human interaction can be read as “contact” in the way the he frames the term. In particular, Delany situates the concept of contact against the idea of “networking,” suggesting that the network opportunity—the conference, the fraternity, the professional gathering—is always established within the protocols of capitalist competition such that even the most convivial sites of professional and class affiliation, the office cocktail party to take one example, can offer only those opportunities and rewards that work to reinforce the limits of individual networks while reinvigorating the policing of class boundaries. In a series of hilarious send-ups of writers’ conventions he notes that aspiring authors arrive at these events hoping that they will experience the type of surprising, if not exactly unanticipated, pleasures and rewards that one haphazardly encounters in interactions with (relative) strangers in the streets of New York. What these eager conferees inevitably experience, however, is the reiteration of their own class positions. Or as Delany succinctly frames the matter, “Networking produces more opportunities to network—and that’s about it.”

Robert F. Reid-Pharr