In Search of Respect
Focuses on racial Segregation and social marginalization and
Underground (untaxed) economy (e.g. drug dealing)
o Allowed 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
o Difficulty 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 Bourdieus analytical category, cultural
Street cultures violence pervades daily life in El Barrio and shapes
mainstream societys 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 Ricos colonial quandaries
and the streets of East Harlem have always produced violent, 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 Rays 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 ones 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 cultures 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
system. 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
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 childs 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 hething and tantalizing El Barrio at its
southern border on East 96 street.