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Lecture

Power and Agency - Class 10


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTA02H3
Professor
Maggie Cummings

Page:
of 3
Power and Agency
ANTA02 – Class 10
Race and Racism
racism looked different in the past than it does not, but same phenomenon exists
racism is multiple and looks different in different contexts
race and ethnicity overlap in the experience of racism, as well as gender and class
“In Search of Respect” -- crack dealers are not one specific race, but rather an ethnic group
(Newyo-rican)
they experience racial discrimination and express themselves according to their race
the search for respect has to do with masculinity and is different than the way their daughters
and wives experience it
Agency versus Structure
identities are comprised of different roles, responsibilities, and expectations relevant to different
people (ex: employee of university, professor of students, etc.)
who we are as individuals is a product of something external (where we live, demands of others,
etc.)
individual decisions and how they aggregate with others shows patterns depending on class,
income, etc (ex: people who are “alike” behave the same way)
we express ourselves based on what we wear, but our choices are based on what shapes our
choices to express our social identity
ex – Durkheim: 1897, study on suicide --> suicide seems like the most individual and
personal choice one can make (only you can kill yourself and make that decision)
he studied the stats on suicide, and found that there are patterns on who will commit
suicide and found that people who lived in cities (vs. Rural areas) and protestants (vs jews
and catholics) were more likely to commit suicide
people who were more integrated into their communities were less likely to commit
suicide (ex: people of villages who has responsibilities towards their neighbours or
family)
there was a subset of suicides that occurred known as altruistic suicides: people killed
themselves as to not spare their families of dishonour, shame, poverty, etc.
implications of poverty or marginalized communities:
agency: choose intentionally what you want to do, and a choice must be made (alternative(s)
available)
taking action when you have no choice, is not agency
structure: larger forces beyond the control of anyone that shape our lives (ex: religion,
economy, culture, government, racism, classism, gender discrimination)
poverty in terms of agency : the danger of blaming the poor on their own decisions is that it
leads to discourses of the opposite of victimization, blaming poor people than blaming the
external factors
also helps us see everyday forms of resistance
explaining poverty based on structure: the poor are trapped by their circumstances and
structural constraints that they cannot escape – entirely victims
balance between agency and structure in explaining marginalization, structure, and agency
Bourgois on agency and structure (143)
argument throughout his book :
the crack dealers and those part of the underground economy are victims of external structural
forces, but they do not accept it because they struggle to find respect and against the structures
that constrain them in an unorthodox way (embracing street culture and towards the
underground economy to search for respect)
by turning towards the underground economy, they end up re-enforcing the structural
constraints towards them further
politics and political economy, space (neighbourhood they live in), culture, and racism all
works against them
History:
puerto rico was used for military and plantations for the US, americans wanted to run the
banana and sugar plantations so they took land from these people and moved them into
factories
those who resisted (farmers) the control of the US are known as Jibarohill-billy,
wild, deviant, resistant, tough, living at the margins, rebelling of the margins, etc.
Became symbol of the Puerto Ricans and they see themselves as resistant to
authorities
Immigration of Puerto Ricans to New York
got jobs in Manhattan, in factories – same time that the economy was restructured and
white-collar work for financing (FIRE state)
those who moved into Manhattan did not find jobs in factory settings and moved into the
white-collar service sector (doormen, cleaning, etc.)
Puerto Ricans moved into East Harlem which already had a tarnished reputation
regardless of the race (ecological explanation) – those who chose or were forced to live in
east harlem were always those who were impoverished, etc.
Wave of immigrations: Jewish – african american – scandinavian – italian - puerto ricans
– becoming mexican
italians who moved to new york at that time were Sicilians, practically african and
experienced racism
Search for Respect
getting respect is based on displaying Jibaro-ness which involves resistance to
domination, displaying machismo, toughness, demonstrating ability to rule through
violence, cultural dignity and pride, not showing public subordination to women in public.
These traits work against them in the working force or office jobs – cause them to
jeopardize their personal beliefs and cultural traits
they don't have the right social capital (resources that you have depending on your group,
certain skills, education, networking, etc.) to succeed in the service world (ex: no high
school education, networks, lingo, accent, etc.)
Embracing Street Culture
aim gender discrimination towards women or any other different group of people
say that mexicans are stealing jobs in the legal economy, but reinact it by saying they don't
even want the jobs
the acts of agency that puerto ricans display become detrimental to themselves and their
families
internalized racism is a form of defiance to take racism that you encounter and turn it back
around, embrace it and gives them respect in the moment. In the long run, embracing and
embodying the stereotypes does not do them good
fight the power record – public enemy, political hip hop group and talking against racism
embracing street culture causes these guys to die through over-dosage or violence
(destructive)