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Philippe Bourgois's ethnographic study of social marginalization in inner city America won critical acclaim when it was first published in 1995 For the first time an anthropologist had managed to gain the trust and long term friendship of street level drug dealers in one of the roughest ghetto neighborhoods East Harlem This new edition adds a prologue describing the major dynamics that have altered life on the streets of East Harlem in the seven years since the first edition In a new epilogue Bourgois brings up to date the stories of the people Primo Caesat Luis Tony Candy who readers come to know in this remarkable window onto the world of the inner city drug trade Philippe Bourgois is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology History and Social Medicine at the University of California San Francisco He has conducted fieldwork in Central America on ethnicity and social unrest and is the author of Ethnicity at Work Divided Labor on a Central American Banana Plantation Johns Hopkins University Press 1989 He is writing a book on homeless heroin addicts in San Francisco 1e hb ISBN 1996 0 521 43518 8 1e pb ISBN 1996 0 521 57460 9


10 thoughts on “In Search of Respect Selling Crack in El Barrio Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences

  1. says:

    An incredible ethnography about life in the Puerto Rican slums in New York Bourgois has done something very brave in observing and interviewing these people who struggle against prejudice ignorance ineuality crime and drug addictions over the period of 4 years living amoungst them and learning than perhapes any outsider had before Nothing has been held back and we experience through these people how drugs have ruined lives and the harsh realities of the barrio including rape and assult Also revealed is how a drug user becomes stuck in their ways often due to prejudice against them trapped and unable to better their situation without external help When reading this however you absolutely must keep an open mind as with all cultures different from our own some things may seem normal to them but horrific to us It is also best to reserve judgement until you have read the entire thing as it is easy to cast off a drug user as a never do well but this really becomes heart warming and gives you a new perspective for how hard these people have it I could go on but it is actually very hard for me to pin down this book in a review but I certainly recommend this book to people who are interested in the truth This ethnography may be even important now as anthropologists are no longer allowed to work in such dangerous situations making this a one of a kind work


  2. says:

    A very important book because it successfully demonstrates how the crack cocaine heroine epidemic of the late 80'searly 90's was brought on in part by the collapse of the urban job market In other words the factory jobs that Puerto Rican immigrants relied on for maintaining traditional family structures and reinforcing patriarchal cultural norms were shipped overseas thus catalyzing the rise of an underground street economy that not only paid its workers better than entry level minimum wage jobs but also validated new generations of Puerto Rican men by allowing them to develop an alternative mode for fulfilling their culture's masculine gender roles The men profiled in this ethnography are unlikable anti heroes cocaine sniffing gang raping deadbeats for the most part but many of their flaws seem to be the product of their social conditioning the result of larger structural violence that only allows its victims to perform gender and cultural roles in the most superficial and self destructive ways


  3. says:

    This work is an impressive ethnographic account of the East Harlem community in the 80s Bourgois embeds himself he brings his wife and kid with him to live in the middle of El Barrio for 3 years into the crack selling culture in El Barrio Bourgois's central argument is that cycles of poverty in the United States exist and persist because of huge structural ineuities He very clearly portrays real life examples of how incentives for criminal activities and disincentives to join the legal economy reinforce these cycles of poverty destruction and despair As these ineuities persist future generations that grow up in this environment of limited opportunities propogate this trapThe title is very informative To Bourgois everyone seeks respect And when presented with the choice of having money to feed the family and pay the rent through illicit sources versus working a dead end job that garners no respect or prospects of upward mobility the choice to make is very clear Bourgois rails against solutions that superficially takes on the problems in El Barrio For example he is critical on the War on drugs argues that the drug epidemic is not THE problem itself but instead a symptom of the deeper problem Bourgois likewise argues that the call for paternal responsibility interestingly as Obama and Bill Cosby have doneis shortsighted because in fact many families are better off without the abusive drug dealing father around As a believer that on the whole people don't fail societies around them fail Bourgois just reinforces my beliefs but I wonder if this book is a Rorscharch Test of sorts I wonder if conservatives read this book they will focus on the individual failures and lack of personal responsibility All in all it's a solid book that won't provide too many new ideas to those with liberal views but would be a nice fresh perspective to those with conservative stances


  4. says:

    The problem with this kind of book which at once seeks to portray the lives of totally irresponsible and bizarrely childlike predators and elicit sympathy for said rapist child abuser immoral jerk offs is that these people do not deserve sympathy I read a Roger Ebert film review once that noted how difficult it is to create a truly antiwar film because war is so inherently dramatic that without the actual danger it inevitably appears adventurous Likewise it is extremely difficult for a writer to elicit sympathy for human cockroaches because their existence is so inherently worthless These people contribute absolutely nothing of positive value to our world while constantly detracting from its goodness and I hate them


  5. says:

    Bourgois writes a powerful ethnography about people entwined with substance abuse in East Harlem He writes an empathetic at the same time critical view of self destructiveness and violence normalised in the daily lives of Puerto Ricans in New York It provides a detailed account of the different forces enmeshed with and directed real lives of real people giving a human face behind those considered a pathological exoticised 'statistic' Apart from having a highly nuanced theorising this is perhaps one of the books that elicited so much emotions in me a testament to the good writing that Bourgois had rendered his ethnography I really have nothing to fault it with


  6. says:

    Philippe Bourgois' ethnography in the heart of El Barrio East Harlem brings some of the most shocking and revealing facts about culture shock Befriending crack and heroin using Puerto Ricans that roam the streets and live by the underground economy that pulses in El Barrio Philippe Bourgois shows that there's so much than what the eye can see By deciding to bring his wife and kid to live in a sector where you cannot take a step forward without cracking vials that once carried a substance by which many couldn't live a day without he was able to learn that policies shouldn't only be focused on the individual and their problems He shows that the problem is a lot grand and that everything is the result of a societal issue that spans over countless yearsShown through the rooted racism and the dramatic change in economy Philippe Bourgois manages to bring to light the difficulty to put together street culture with the traditional working class culture While the author spends countless hours in trying to understand the lives of a couple of Puerto Ricans who are well embedded in the drug market he also manages to make us empathize with these individuals even when we find out about all the horrible things that they end up doing ranging from brutalizing their wives to gang rapping teenagers This very book is far from being just an ethnography It is an account of two different realities that brings individuals to a normalized self destruction While the ethnography isn't meant to set in stone a macrolevel analysis it however manages to make us uestion some the most fundamental values of societyStruggling to fit in and live an economically stable life Puerto Ricans are brought to hunt for something much bigger than just money They are looking for something to justify their very lifestyles They are in search of respectPS Full review to comeYours trulyLashaan | Blogger and Book ReviewerOfficial blog


  7. says:

    In Search of Respect describes the social structure of the drug business Throughout the book Phillip Bourgois interviews drug dealers in East Harlem They mention the struggles they go to in order to survive I learned that prejudice and racism played an important role in the characters' lives in that it was almost like a predetermining factor Because the main characters Caesar and Primo were Spanish it was difficult for them to find jobs so they turned to the drug business Bourgois mentions a great deal about social issues including poverty drugs sex and racism


  8. says:

    This book's argument is that people like Primo and Caesar have not passively accepted their structural victimhood On the contrary by embroiling themselves in the underground economy and proudly embracing street culture they are seeking an alternative to their social marginalization In the process on a daily level they become the actual agents administering their own destruction and they community's sufferingThis was a courageous and thoughtful attempt to gain insight into the uestion of structure versus agency in causing inner city blight The author moved to Spanish Harlem in the mid 90s and befriended a gang of crack dealers The book is worth finding for chapter 4 alone on the dealers' rancorous attempts to hold onto legal office work Chapter 5 on their failed schooling and shockingly on the prevalence of gang rape is also pretty essential appalling readingThe author shows how migration of large numbers of poor Puerto Ricans to New York City during a period of deindustrialization combined with the rise of crack cocaine and the persistence of racial and cultural barriers produced a generation of people shut out of dependable avenues for supporting themselves legally In place of employment and self respect came dealing aggression poverty sexual violence and a desperate yearning of the young men to make it big somehowThe figures in the book could not overcome the structure they were born into but we get little sense of how typical they were of the community as a whole It would have been good to have heard from some people who did make it out how did they overcome the barriers?


  9. says:

    This was a really good ethnography I adored it it was not filled with an excessive amount of jargon making it inaccessible for the average person I also think that it was an extremely interesting topic and I think that it was incredibly well done of Bourgois giving voice to people who had often not had one This was done mostly through his application of postmodernism supplying the reader with transcripts from the interview allowing us to form our own opinions on the subject and not having our perception censored by Bourgois' personal viewpoint Further everything is revealed in these interviews the good and the bad; thus successfully humanising a group of people who had often experienced the exact opposite Bourgois describes the harsh reality of the underground economy in New York El Barrio telling about incidents of violence threats and even an episode of group rape as a form of initiation process Further Bourgois also details the injustices his interlocutors have faced not having the proper capital to enter the legal economy This is portrayed beautifully through his use of practice theory outlining the way in which the government failed them from the time they were young and in school and were not taught the proper ways to interact with beaurocratic forces and the legal economy leaving them at a marked disadvantage Often reading these accounts of things that the interlocutors had done which differed so greatly from my own and Bourgois' morals it was hard to remain neutral and keep one's sympathy for the interlocutors However what kept me going was Bourgois' honesty in addressing his own reaction to these things and how that for him was hard to hear and put him in a morally ambiguous situation at times Overall this was a great ethnography and kudos to Bourgois for immersing himself fully in this society despite the warnings he got not to I think this book warrants 5 out of 5 stars


  10. says:

    This book chronicles Bourgois' public infiltration of the crack dealer social scene in East Harlem New York City As a white middle class college educated man Bourgois faces many obstacles to finding the real story to share with people who read such books While at times I had to put the book down because my stomach and my mind couldn't be complicit in this seeming misuse of privilege who am I to determine if someone can or can not consent to such a detailed published account of their lives? Much of the book consists of conversations Bourgois recorded and then transcribed so there IS actually a realness to it and Bourgois is aware of the uneual dynamic he is creating and touches on engagement with this problem in the book His analysis is often interesting and relevant to the clash of street culture with middle American society and details the catch 22 many people in the underground economy deal with He deals a great bit with violence rape and gang rape in a detailed way that could be triggering and is definitely stomach wrenching