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In Search of Respect (2nd ed.)

When his 'friends' sell crack to pregnant women or jokingly discuss their explicit participation in gang rape, Bourgois is confronted with the moral dilemma of cultural relativism. The episode in which his informants discuss their participation in bullying a disabled boy is especially hard for the author, whose son had recently been diagnosed with cerebral palsy Bourgois, Whilst acknowledging his own feelings, Bourgois refuses to pass critical judgement and accepts violence as a fact of daily life. However, to middle class, mainstream society, Bourgois could be convicted of exposing his own son to the dangers of the drug underworld, not unlike pregnant addicts who's unborn children are directly affected by drug abuse.

In this way, Bourgois is deeply embroiled within his culture of study as his family shares the daily experiences of residents and are vulnerable to the violence of inner city life. Maintaining an objective, removed presence in line with traditional anthropology is not possible within this society for an inquisitive anthropologist, and Bourgois takes an active role in participants lives, organising trips for children to art galleries across the 'invisible apartheid barrier' Bourgois could be accused of appealing to readers sense of empathy with highly emotive examples of children facing daily violence.

However these issues are dealt with in Bourgois's characteristic sensitive, reflexive style and are justified in his refusal to sanitise or distort, as the 'conspiracy of silence' only serves to reinforce oppression. Bourgois book is accessible and hard to put down, his writing style is direct and stirring and the proliferation of accounts of fieldwork experiences and life stories make it accessible to readers with or without an anthropological or academic background.


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The focus on human lives and struggles is intriguing yet a sense of perverse fascination or a fetishism of violence is avoided by continual reference to structural oppression and theorising of power. Critical acclaim attests to the value and originality of this ethnography in its field as it won the Margaret Mead Prize for the study of social problems and the Victor Turner Award for ethnographic writing Cambridge University Press, However despite this success, the individuals from its pages did not believe it would help their community in any tangible way Bourgois, 46 , which raises the question of the purpose and value of anthropology as a medium for positive social transformation.

In the conclusion, Bourgois offers solutions to transform the lives of the urban poor through structural upheavals such as decriminalising drugs and the equal distribution of welfare. However, as the author admits, these are unrealistic goals for the foreseeable future and this section feels somewhat vague and idealistic. It does, nonetheless provoke new discussions around the urban poor which relate their circumstances to tangible structural processes and has had an impact on their image in society.

Bourgois emphasises that they have not 'passively accepted structural victimisation', but by involving themselves in an underground economy and 'embracing street culture' they actively seek an alternative to their marginalisation, which unfortunately results in a vicious cycle of their own destruction This humanising rhetoric countered the demonising images of drug addicts and dealers, and lends responsibility to the racism, structural oppression and economic inequalities throughout capitalist America.

These people were 'made in America' and have been socialised in accordance with the entrepreneurial American dream in their 'search for respect' Bourgois, Cambridge University Press, Clifford, J. Writing Culture: The poetics and politics of ethnography. Miller, B. In search of respect: an interview with Philippe Bourgois.

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Philippe Bourgois, [n. Philippe Bourgois. Shannon, C. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 27 4 : Related Papers. Soc Anth 1B essay El Barrio. By Alexandra Ward.


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In search of respect : selling crack in El Barrio

Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Preface to the second edition Introduction Violating a Partheid in the United States A street history of El Barrio Crackhouse management: addiction, discipline, and dignity 'Goin' legit': disrespect and resistance at work School days: learning to be a better criminal Redrawing the gender line on the street Families and children in pain Vulnerable fathers Conclusion; Epilogue Table of Contents provided by Publisher.

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