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ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - Michael Taussig, Black Market, Youth Crew

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Maggie Cummings

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In Search of Respect
Phillippe Bourgois
·Focuses on racial Segregation and social marginalization and
·Underground (untaxed) economy (e.g. drug dealing)
oAllowed the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in
neighbourhoods like East Harlem to subsist with the minimal
amenities that people living in the U.S. considered to be basic
oDifficulty of estimating the size of underground economy – let
alone drug dealing – is even thornier.
· “inner-city” street culture: a complex and conflictual web of beliefs,
symbols, modes of interaction, values and ideologies that have
emerged in opposition to exclusion from mainstream society.
·French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s analytical category, “cultural
·Street culture’s violence pervades daily life in El Barrio and shapes
mainstream society’s perception of the ghetto in a manner completely
disproportionate to its objective danger. Part of the reason is that
violent incidents are highly visible and traumatic.
·Michael Taussig: “culture of terror” to convey the dominating effect of
widespread violence on a vulnerable society. One of the consequences
of the “culture of terror” dynamic is to silence the peaceful majority of
the population who reside in the neighbourhood. They isolate
themselves from the community and grow to hate those who
participate in the street culture – sometimes internalizing racist
stereotypes in the process.
·Conversely, mainstream society unconsciously uses the images of a
culture terror to dehumanize the victims and perpetuators and to
justify its unwillingness to confront segregation, economic
marginalization and public sector breakdown.
·Social marginalization in El Barrio: Puerto Rico’s colonial quandaries
and the streets of East Harlem have always produced violent,

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substance-abusing fellows no matter what immigrant ethnic group
happened to be living there at the time.
·Mafia has left a powerful institutional and ideological legacy on East
Harlem by demonstrating decisively that crime and violence pay,
which is periodically reinforced by mainstream society with the
recurring financial scandals on Wall Street and in the banking world.
·One contemporary street-culture kinship arrangement is that women
are obliged to establish serial households with different men through
their life cycles.
·The contrast between Ray’s consistent failures at establishing viable,
legal business ventures versus his notable success at running a
complex franchise of retail crack outlets, highlight different cultural
capitals needed to operate as a private entrepreneur in the legal
economy versus the underground economy.
·Entry-level inner-city workers are hindered by the fact that the
vocabulary used in office work performance evaluations has no
counterpart in street culture.
·The complex interfaces among family, school, and peer group are
crucial to the construction and enforcement of social marginalization,
especially in one’s pre-teenage years.
·In this chapter Bourgois focuses on the quintessential early-socializing
institution of mainstream society in the inner city: the public school.
This leads fluidly into street culture’s alternative to school – the peer
group or the proto-criminal youth crew – gang which effectively fills the
formal institutional vacuum created by truancy.
·The chapter ends with an analysis of how street-bound, school-age
boys learn to enforce the misogyny of street culture through gang
·Following the insights of Bourdieu, if forms of cultural interactions –
and literacy, more specifically – are the basis for the “symbolic capital”
that structures power in any given society, then one can understand
from the perspective of a new-immigrant mother and her second-
generation progeny the trauma of first contact with the public school

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·Theorists working at the intersection of the fields of education,
anthropology and sociology have built a body of literature – sometimes
called cultural production theory – to document the way teachers
unconsciously process subliminal class and cultural messages to
hierarchize their students. Tangible markers like accent and clothing
combine with subtler forms of expression such as eye contact, body
language, play styles, and attention spans to persuade the agents of a
mainstream, middle-class, white-dominated bureaucracy that a
particular child is a disciplinary problem, emotionally disturbed, or of
low intelligence.
·The enforcement at school of the symbolic parameters of social power
is an unconscious process for everyone involved. It poisons the most
intimate facets of a vulnerable child’s life.
·Car thieving was a memorable rite of passage into teenagehood for an
enterprising youngster. It also offered a modicum of revenge against
the rich white neighbourhood hemming and tantalizing El Barrio at its
southern border on East 96th street.
·Although Primo’s mother was quick to blame her son’s demise on the
“bad influences” of his friends, there was a powerful economic
imperative, coupled with a gender-based definition of dignified male
adolescent behaviour, that propelled him into petty crime before he
was even a teenager.
·the economic logic of stealing from wealthy neighbours melded into a
street culture identity.
·The gang rapes discussed in the preceding chapter were not the
isolated brutal excesses of a fringe group of pathological sadists. On
the contrary, they provide an insider’s perspective on the misogyny of
street culture and the violence of everyday life.
Pg 213- 215
·Candy’s experiences as a woman capable of commanding respect on
the street embody the contradictory process through which gender
relationships are being redefined in street culture.
·Pg 218 last paragraph. Candy was faithfully following this traditional
cultural scenario.
·Candy understood her liberating act (shooting her husband in the
stomach) as the traditional outburst of a jealous woman who was
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