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PSYC 2040 (85)
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PSYC 2040

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In Search of Respect Introduction - Bourgois forced into crack - Looking for an inexpensive apartment - wanted to write book on the experiences of poverty and ethnic segregation in the heart of one of the most expensive cities in the world - thought drug themes was one of the main things he would explore - original subject was the entire underground licensed off-track betting and drug- dealing - people didn’t know what cocaine was when he first arrived because it was not available as a mass-marketed product - by the end however a lot of people knew about it - heroin has rejoined crack and cocaine as a primary drug of choice available in the inner city as international suppliers of heroin have regained their lost market share of substance abuse by lowering their prices and increasing the quality of their product The Underground Economy - book not about crack or drugs - substance abuse is just a symbol of deeper social marginalization and alienation - according to the statistics burgoise’s neighbors should be dressed in rags and homeless - most local residents are adequately dressed and reasonably healthy - why should people take the subway downtown to work minimum wage – in downtown offices when they can sell drugs in their street corners in front of their apartment or school yard - because fewer households than individuals are missed by the Census in urban settings, one possible measure for the size of the underground economy is the figure got households that declare no “wage or salary income” - this provides only the roughest comparative measure for the size of the underground economy in different neighborhoods because some households survive exclusively on retirement - this figure only measures drug dealing even more tenuously since many rely on the untaxed economy for supplemental income Street Culture: Resistance and Self Destruction - street culture offers an alternative forum for autonomous personal dignity - street culture has emerged as an oppositional style - although street culture emerges out of a personal search for dignity and a rejection of racism and subjugation it ultimately becomes an active agent in personal degradation and community ruin - most El-Barrio residents have nothing to do with drugs - the drug dealers in this book represent a small minority of East Harlem but they have managed to set the tone for public life - street-level drug dealers offer a persuasive, even if violent and self-destructive, alternative lifestyle to the youths growing up around them - the extreme – response to poverty and segregation that the dealers and addicts in this book represent, afford insight into processes that may be experienced in one form or another by major sectors of vulnerable population experiencing rapid structural change in the context of political and ideological oppression Ethnographic Methods and Negative Stereotyping - hopes to restore the agency of culture, the autonomy of individuals, and the centerality of gender and the domestic sphere to a political economic understanding of the experience of persistent poverty and social marginalization of the United States - individuals who have been marginalized socially, economically, and culturally have had negative relationships with mainstream society - even honest citizens for example, regularly engage in underground economy practices when they finesse their deductions on income tax returns - cultures are never good or bad, they have an internal logic. Suffering is usually hideous, it is a solvent of human integrity, and ethnographers never want to make the people they study look ugly Critiquing the Culture of Poverty - bourgeois’s feels that it is imperative from a personal and ethical perspective, as well as from an analytical and a theoretical one to explain the horrors that he witnessed from a personal and an ethnical perspective Chapter 1: Violating Apartheid in the United States - research almost came to an end when he disrespected Ray Learning Street Smarts - Ray was having a good time with his friends, acquantinces and it was rare to catch him this happy - Ray and Burgouise were close, Ray had told him about his stickup artist past, and because in the party Ray had just made a point of buying Burgoise a Heineken instead of the cheaper budwieser that everyone else received - Burgouise thought it would be a good moment and it would impress everyone if he shared a photograph of him on the newspaper standing next to Phil Donahue following a prime-time televison debate on violent crimes in East Harlem - He wanted to show that picture because some of Ray’s most closest men thought that he was an imposter, pretending to be a stuck up professor, and some thought he was a narcotics agent on a long-term undercover assignment - Basically burgouise stuffed the paper into Ray’s face and told him to read the caption, and Ray can’t read - He got very upset and swore at everyone and said he didn’t care about any of this shit - Primo turned to him and said “you dissed the fat nigga” The Parameter of Violence, Power, and Generosity - Ray had taught Primo how to steal car radios and burgalarize downtown businesses. - Primo told burgoise that Ray will not be okay he is respected on the streets, people know him, he was wild when he was a kid .On the streets that means respect. So, Burgoise asked him if he was scared of Ray, and Primo admitted he has been scared of Ray. He told him stories of childhood terror that Ray inflicted on him. - Ray’s ruthlessness and cruelty were an integral part of his effectiveness at running his networks and crackhouses smoothly - Behavior that appears irrationally violent, barbaric, and ultimately self-destructive to the outsider can be reinterpreted one’s “human capital development” - Ceaser is Primo’s best friend and he works as the lookout in the gameroom. - Primo and Ceaser explained to Burgoise that its not good to be sweet sometimes to people because they are going to take advantage of you. You have to be a nice and sweet person in real life but you got to have a little meaness in you and play street. You can’t allow people to push you around because otherwise people think you’re a punk and that’s the whole point to make people believe your cool so that nobody bothers you - After that Burgouise tried to keep a low profile, and not encounter Ray. Ray had told Primo that he had a dream that Burgouise was part of the FBI. Everyone took these symbolic warnings seriously because dreams have a powerful significance in Puerto Rican culture - Ray’s followers did not remain loyal to him solely out of fear and violence, some of the older network members of his network genuinely liked him. He was capable of reciprocating friendship. The Barriers of Cultural Capital - Ray expected Burgoise to serve as his cultural broker to the outsider world, ultimately demanding that I help him launder his money - He wanted bugoise’s help him in all the beureaucratic hoops that kept him from operating as a legal entrapaneur. - Burguiose was careful not to offend Ray and always found excuses to avoid unwittingly becoming a facilitator to his money-laundering schemes, which inevitably failed miserably as soon as he encountered institutionalized bureaucracies or any kind of formal paperwork Confronting Race, Class, and Politics - police officers would make fun of Burgoise’s accent made police officers think he was making fun of them, or putting on airs when he spoke politely to them in complete sentences. When he sounded polite he risked offending them Racism and the Culture of Terror - everyone in El-Barrio is conscious of the real possibility of assault - Micheal Taussig’s term: “culture of terror” to convey the widespread violence on a vulnerable society - Spanish Harlem is a consequence of the “culture of terror” dynamic is to silence the peaceful majority of the population who reside in the neighborhood. They isolate themselves from the community and grow to hate those who participate in the street culture – sometimes dynamic mandates distrust of one’s neighbor - In order to have a successful ethnography Burgoise had to be relaxed and enjoy himself on the street. Internalizing Institutionalized Violence - judges in Manhattan never send people to jail for the first time for selling or buying small quantities of drugs after being arrested Accessing the Game Room Crack House - burgouise refused to sniff cocaine when he was with Primo and Benzie and they ended up telling him that they were thrilled to be hanging out with such good people who did not sniff. Primo always liked to conversate with Burgoise because he was an actual live representative of “drug free” live America - burgouise started to hang out with people at the Game Room crackhouse chatting with Primo or whoever else was on duty that shift. He became an exotic object of prestige, the crackhouse habitués wanted to be seen with him. He had a power relation where his prescence intimidated people. - Burgouise’s next step was to break through the impressions-management game playing that inverse power relationships inevitable entail o Ex: within Primo he had triggered a wave of internalized racism whereby he enthusiastically presented himself as superior to the shameless scum all around us here. He kept trying to differentiate himself from those Puerto Ricans that work in factories. Primo felt that it was good for his mind to be talking to Burgouise. At the same time he still thought that Burgouise was an undercover officer. He said that I don’t care, if tomorrow you arrest me, I want to talk to you your good people. Also, 3 years later Primo started calling Burgouise “the white nigga” who always be hanging with me. Primo told Burgouise that when I first met you I wondered who you were, and I received you well because I thought you were good. Then Benzie told him that when I first saw you I thought you were like you know bisexual even though you had a wife and all you were dirty. It was cause of the way you talk and act, and cause you asked a lot of questions a lot of gay people are like that. But, after Benzie and Burgouise started hanging out Benzie started to understand him but still thought he was a faggot. Then Primo said the only reason that Benzie though that way was because you were a white boy. African – American/Puerto Rican Relations on the Streets - Burgouise wanted to be black when he was younger. He wanted to be with that black style. Cause they are badder. - He thought that Spanish people were kind of wimpy - Through halfway in this book, the characters that Burgouise had developed a close relationship with, began following the details of his writing habits and told him to make speedier progress. o Ex: when Burgouise came down with a debilitating tendinitis in his wrists and forearms from spending too many hours on the word processor Ceaser and Primo became genuinely worried and disappointed. Their relationship had developed an almost psychotherapeutic dimension. Chapter 2: A Street History of El-Barrio - Puerto Rico is not a economically profitable colony, it was a locus for military control - Puerto Ricans are not allowed to vote in presidential elections and have no enfranchised representatives in the U.S congress but it is subject to U.S rule - According to Caesar: the only reason that the U.S acknowledges Puerto Rico is because its close to Cuba – a shorter distance to destroy communism – Puerto Rico has nothing to offer From Puerto Rico Jibaro to Hispanic Crack Dealer - in 1990’s the U.S actively transformed Puerto Rico’s economy, rendering it even less responsive to local needs and culture than it had been under Spanish documentation - New York – born Puerto Ricans are the descendants of an uprooted people in the midst of a marathon sprint through economic history. 1) From semi-subsistence peasants on privet hillside plots or local haciendas 2) To agriculture laborers on foreign owned, capital-intensive ego expert plantations 3) To factory workers in an export-platform 4) To sweatshop workers in ghetto tenants 5) To service sector employees in high-rise inner city housing projects 6) To underground economy entrepreneurs on the street - Primo called his father a jibaro (stereotypical image of a ruggedly independent subsidence farmers who wears a straw hat, wields a straw machete, and squats on his country home to receive visitor at the end of a hard day’s work at the fields). - One particular economic sector has benefited greatly from the Puerto Rico’s repeated social and economic metamorphoses: the U.S based multinational corporations who dominate its local economy. They have taken advantage of the Island’s general tax concession to turn Puerto Rico into a haven for inflated corporate profits. - The economic imperatives shaping the lives of Puerto Ricans have been compounded ideologically by an overtly racist “cultural assault” o This is symbolized by the U.S colonial administration’s English-only policy in Puerto Rican schools until 1949 o For those who emigrated from the islands culture shock has been obviously more profound. Overnight, the new immigrants whose rural- based cultural orientations and self-esteem was constructed around interpersonal webs of respect organized around complex categories of age, gender, and kinship found themselves transformed into “racially” inferior pariahs. Ever since their arrival in United States they have been humiliated with a virulence that is specific to North America’s history of polarized race relations and ethnically segmented labor markets. o Puerto Ricans suffer disproportionate hardships that ranges from the fastest growing HIV infected cases, the highest rate of bedridden disability, the most deaths caused by the cirrhosis of the liver, and the highest rates of suicide attempts Confronting Individual Responsibility on the Street - When face to face to face with individuals like Ray, Primo, or Ceaser one feels the amount of “historic apology” and “structural victimization” which exempts them from their consequences of their often violent, self destructive and parasitical actions. Poverty and Ecological Despair - Regardless of which ethnic group has prevailed in East Harlem since the 1880s, researchers and commentators have virtually unanimously decried the neighborhoods concentrated poverty, condemning it judgmentally. - East Harlem is one of the worst districts in the city, the boys have no respect for learning law or discipline The Free Market for Crack and Cocaine - although no longer powerful as it was before the old fashioned mafia the old fashioned mafia has left a powerful institutional and ideological on East Harlem by demonstrating decisively that crime and violence pay. o Ex: Ceaser put this into play in the gameroom, basically he says that you can only survive in this world if your connected to the dirty Italians. Also, he adds that if you r rich you still got to get dirty. Chapter 3: Crackhouse Management: Attention, Discipline, and Dignity Living with Crack - Felix established the crackhouse, he was Primo’s first cousin. The bulk of Felix’s energy was devoted towards cultivating sexual liaisons with addicted women – especially teenage girls. - During the early phase of the crack epidemic in the late 1985 Primo was Felix’s steadiest customer. - In later years Primo would reminisce about the desperate years he spent as a crack addict Primo said he was in his own world, and didn’t care about the world. Once Primo was with his “homeboy” and his girl, and they saw this Mexican sleeping in the lobby, he was probably drunk. According to Primo he looked like he had a job because otherwise he would not have had a gold ring. So, as soon as Primo saw him he asked him for the time, and as he got the time Primo grabbed him by the neck, and put his knife in his back. Then he told the homeless guy don’t move or I’ll stick you like a roasted pig. The Mexican panicked and wanted to escape more but couldn’t and the more he tried the more Primo was jigging him. Primo wasn’t joking around either he was serious. Then he put the Mexican down and started poking him hard and his homegirl started searching him. She found his chain, and then Primo said to take his ring too. But, the Mexican said take everything just not the ring please. But they still took the ring, and sold it. They left the girl in the park, she didn’t even get a cent Then Ceaser explained he only smokes because he loves it. Once you take the first blast, you can’t have one, you need more, because it is good. - Felix was hanging around some women in a hotel in New Jersey. It was on the second floor and Candy – his wife –had found out about it and came looking for him. And as Felix jumped from the second floor landing he fucked up his foot, so he couldn’t work. The next day Felix asked Burgouise if he wanted to help him out. From that day Burgouise started to work there. - Candy shot Felix to punish him for sleeping with her sister. As soon as Felix recovered from his hospital stay, he was sent ‘upstate’ to prison to serve an unrelated 2- 4 year prison sentence for weapon possession. Candy immediately sold the rights to the gameroom for $3000 to Ray, who himself had just completed a 4-year sentence upstate for assault with a deadly weapon, following his $14 000 shoot-out above the heroin den he was holding up. Restructuring Management at the Game Room - Ray proved to be a brilliant labor relations manager - He extracted higher and higher profits margins from his problematic workers - He knew how to discipline his workforce firmly without overstepping culturally defined rules of mutual respect. He knew exactly where to set violent limits, and when he express friendship and flexible understanding without ever revealing vulnerability - Ray was particularly skillful in his manipulation of kinship networking to ensure the loyalty of his often addicted and violent workers. The majority of his employees were blood related kin, or were affiliated through marriage, or had been incorporated through a fictive kinship agreement For example he asked Primo to be the godfather of one of his sons, thereby establishing a compadre relationship. The institution of compadrazgo is a powerful tradition in Puerto Rican culture that sacrifices solidarity and reciprocal obligations between men. In this more modern context, Ray also benefited from this contemporary street culture kinship agreement that oblige women to establish serial households with different men through their life cycles. His childhood friendship with Luis was cemented as quasi-kin relationship by having fathered children with the same woman. Curbing Addiction and Channeling Violence - Primo’s close friendship with Ceaser was a complicated one. Caesars drinking often unleased uncontrollable outburst of aggression and when he binged on crack – which was almost every time he got paid – he ended up borrowing or stealing from everyone around him. Nevertheless Caesar and Primo were un-separable. - Caesar did an excellent job as a lookout. The only person who has disrespected the Game Room premises while Caesar was on duty was a jealous young man high on angel dust. He was carried away from the premises with a fractured skull. o Basically this black man kept talking shit about how he can do whatever he wants. Caesar was calm until the man said he was going to drop dimes on them. Then Caesar took a baseball bat and smacked him. To Caesar it is the survival of the fittest. o Another benefit that Caesar derived from his inability to control his underlying rage was a monthly social insurance check for being as he put it – “a certified nut case” which he reconfirmed occasionally by attempting to commit suicide. o In Ray’s judgment Caesar was too out of control to be trusted and that is why he was never formally hired into the network. Ray was much more cautious then Primo about who he hired. Caesar was acutely aware of Ray’s rejected of him but nevertheless continually acquired to formal inclusions in his organization. Caesar said that he knew Ray didn’t pay him directly and he was subcontracted by Primo but if he goes to jail Ray will look out for him cause he likes to keep him around for security reasons. - Benzie was the lookout that replaced Caesar who was also a crack addict, but unlike Caesar he followed Primo’s example and used his position as drug dealer as a trampoline for overcoming his crack addition by substituting it for a less virulent powder cocaine habit occasionally supplemented by heroin. Benzie was a janitor and at that time Primo offered him a job at the lookout. Benzie started using crack while working legally and not until he quit his legitimate job to work full time as a crack dealer was he able to kick his crack habit. The responsibilities if his new position as a street seller forced him to straighten out. Minimum Wage Crack Dealers - The tendency to overspend income windfalls conspicuously is universal in an economy that fertilizes material goods and services. Crack dealers are merely a caricaturally visible version of these otherwise very North American phenomena of rapidly of over consuming easily earned money. Their limited options for spending money constructively in the legal economy exacerbate their profligacy. - Most street sellers like Primo are paid on a piece-rate commission basis. In other words, their take home pat is a function of how much they sell. - Primo has good intention but they do not lead anywhere when the only legal jobs that he compete for fail to provide him with a livable wage. None of the crack dealers were explicitly conscious of the linkage between their limited options in the legal economy, their addiction to drugs, and their dependence of the crack economy for survival and personal dignity. Management – Labor Conflict at the Game Room - Ray instituted a double shit at the Social Club, keeping it open for 16 hours every day except Sunday. Ray expanded the Social Club and made it better, which led to expansion and diversification of Ray’s network allowed him to be more manipulative in his management of labor relations. This initiated a protracted jiggle for power between Ray and Primo. Primo was demoted from manager to senior salesperson. Ray claimed that Primo had precipitated the changes because of the tardiness, absenteeism, and ineffectiveness in curbing violence and noise at the Game Room. Tony was hired which limited Primo to working two night shifts per week. o Primo responded by increasing his alcohol and substance abuse, became less punctual, and a more undisciplined worker provoking Ray on several occasions to lay him off in retaliation for probationary two-week stretches. - Ceasar and Ray got into many arguments when Caesar was drunk which led Ray to ask Primo to fire Caesar, Primo refused. Ray retaliated by switching Primo’s schedule to Monday and Tuesday nights instead of Thursday and Friday nights. Thursday is an especially coveted night to sell on because it is payday for municipal employees. - Classic example of internalization of labor markets antagonisms Primo and Caesar redoubled their hatred for Tony, the replacement employee that Ray had hired a few months back to discipline Caesar and Primo. Tony reciprocated their antagonism. This escalated into a potentially lethal confrontation when 3 bundles of crack disappeared inside the Pac-Man video machine during the interval between Primo’s Tuesday night shift and Tony’s Wednesday shift. Everyone professed innocence, but there was no sign of forced entry and Tony and Primo were the only two people besides Ray to have keys to the locale. Ray wanted to kill or at least break the legs of the culprit – but he couldn’t decide who to punish. The following night another 3 bundles were stolen from the stash. Ray was furious but also helpless – a condition which made him even more dangerous than he normally is. To save face he began deducting the value of the stolen bundles from both Primo and Tony’s wages on a fifty-fifty basis. Sales on Monday and Tuesday nights were so low Ray had to set up an installment plan for his reimbursement. o Sensing that he was a prime suspect Caesar was very vocal in denouncing Tony as the thief. The mysterious disappearance of the 6 bindles was finally resolved with the anticipated life threatening beating, but neither Tony, Caesar was the victims. The thief was Gato, Ray’s jack-of-all-trades maintenance worker who had renovated the new locale upstairs from the Game Room. The Crackhouse Clique: Dealing with Security - When Primo was on duty he was generous always offering beers, and even occaisional sniffs of cocaine. - The people reclining on car hoods, squatting in neighboring stoops, or tapping their feet to the ubiquitous rap or salsa playing on someone’s radio, served several different useful roles for the crackhouse Provided strategic business information on competing drug spots and on the changing trends in tastes and market shifts in the underground economy - Primo’s best and cheapest insurance against physical assault was to surround himself with a network of people who genuinely respected and liked him. - Another crucial service fulfilled by Primo’s hang-out network as well as his lookouts was to screen for narcotics agents. Crack dealers have to have organic ties to the street scene in order to identify the bona fide addict or user from the undercover imposter. When Primo did not know somebody or had suspicions about a customer he would check with his lookout, or a friend outside of the stoop before serving them - The biggest threat to the Social Club came from the New York City fire marshals, who sealed the place on several occasions for violating the fire codes. - The invulnerability of Ray’s crackhouse to police control was largely owing to the general public sector breakdown of the neighborhood. Inner-city police forces are so demoralized. Inner-city police forces are so demoralized and incompetent that for the most part they do not have to be systematically corrupt – although they often are – in order for the street-level for the drug dealing to flourish in their precincts. The attitude of honest officers is too hostile toward the local community for them to be able to build the networks that would allow them to document the operations of the numerous drug-delaying spots in the neighborhoods they patrol. For example: about 5 ½ years of being practically the only white person out on the street after dark on a regular basis Burgousis’s block,
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