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In search of respect

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Maggie Cummings

In Search of Respect Phillippe Bourgois Focuses on racial Segregation and social marginalization and alienation. 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 necessities. 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 capital. 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 rape. 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 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 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.
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