No Dancin' in Anson:
An American Story of Race and Social Change

This refreshingly candid, easy to read little book seeks to explain issues, ie, the psychologies, underlying ethnic difference and racial prejudice, dynamics that ameliorate or worsen the social impact of America’s increasing racial diversity. Dr Ainslie teaches his valuable lessons by telling the story of Anson, Texas, and its social and legal struggle over whether the town should allow a high school prom with dancing.
— Carl Bell, M.D., Journal of the American Medical Association, 1996

Anson, a small community in west Texas, plunged into turmoil when a parent group (soon to be known as The Footloose Club, after the 1980’s movie) came together to address concerns about their teenage children. As in many farming communities, teenagers’ free time was all too often spent drinking and "parking." To provide chaperoned activities appealing to adolescents, Footloose began to plan a dance, but they soon found themselves at odds with an ordinance banning dancing within the city limits enacted in the 1930's by a fundamentalist church. That church still ran most things in town.

I knew nothing of this confrontation when I first arrived in Anson seeking to understand the profound social transformations taking place in small towns all over Texas in the state’s rapidly urbanizing turn. What I discovered is that for years a powerful connection between religious affiliation, economy and social power had prevailed in Anson. In a post Civil Rights-era Texas, the Footloose group was emblematic of a changing reality. Comprised of people of Mexican ancestry and relative new comers to the community without ties to the old guard, an inevitable confrontation was set in motion. They, and members of the old guard became the focus of my work.

Anson’s dance controversy provides the rich backdrop for a story of social change. I interviewed over sixty Anson residents as part of a qualitative, ethnographic effort that took place over a period of more than two years. I travelled regularly to west Texas and conducted in-depth, very personal interviews with many in the community in an attempt to tell describe the social transformation that had taken place in psychological terms.  It is here that I learned to do the work I call psychoanalytic ethnography, and this book documents social and methodological insights that have stayed with me ever since.