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Chapter 3-5

ANTHROP 3P03 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3-5: Erving Goffman, Ethnography

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Ellen Badone

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Reading Commentary: Chapters 3, 4, and 5 in On the Run
In the third chapter, Goffman focuses on how women related in some way to the Black
males who were essentially being hunted were at times forced by the police in to helping them
by revealing where their loved one was. There are two types of women related to the men that
are being searched for; informant and resister or snitch and abandoner or rider, respectively.
Women become one of the two through police coercion, threats of arrest, eviction, child custody,
and violence, amongst numerous other ‘approaches’. But a rider can become a snitch through
any of the conditions previously mentioned. The chapter, in addition to showing how women
were treated, also showed the extent of police brutality, as Goffman herself was intercepted and
almost attacked for not responding to the Police asking where Mike was. Even the police states a
veiled threat, of her being to blame when Miss Regina’s house is destroyed, especially since she
takes pride in it. I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter, as it opened my eyes to just how police use
violence to further victimize the families of the Black men wanted for numerous varieties of
crimes, when they have not done things that are ‘really criminal.’ This chapter and the entire
book is best summarized by a quote from the ethnography on page 59, “they are taking all our
sons…and it’s getting younger and younger.”
Chapter four begins with showing that men and women use the interventions of the
‘justice’ system to deal with their own purposes, which includes work, and dealing with courts
and police. On page 91, it is shown that if the threats outside of prison are greater than prison,
being a safe haven in other words, some men will manipulate certain situations to be taken to jail
‘willingly’. It continues with descriptions of what would fall under the category of gang wars;
shooting, and killing, being the major actions. In this chapter, it also shows that loved ones of
Black males would consider being snitches, especially in Donna’s case, as she was trying to keep
Alex out of jail. It was really well done that the author used more dialogue between the
characters, unlike previous chapters.
The fifth chapter deals with the transition of youth from preteen to jail, and the different
stages of movement through the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is
essentially a dark cloud that hangs over the Black men on 6th street, and across America. In other
words, the criminal justice system is the world that Black men begin to know as youth. Despite
the dangers posed to Black men by attending public events such a funerals or private ones such
as birth, some still attend the events as a sign of commitment to loved ones. Goffman poses the
question about morality in such situations, as the loved ones can be put in danger by the arrival
or presence of a wanted ‘criminal’. Goffman shows excerpts from her fieldwork including legal
proceedings such as trials. Her field notes could have revealed too much about the informants’
lives including Miss Linda, as Goffman stated her kitchen smelled of animal urine amongst other
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