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SOC*2070 Readings Week 9.doc

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SOC 2070
Linda Hunter

Substance Use, Misuse and Harm Reduction Programs Reseaching Dealers and Smugglers (Adler Ch 14 pg. 132-147) - investigative field research is perhaps the only way to acquire accurate knowledge about deviant behaviour - especially necessary for studying groups such as drug dealers and smugglers be- cause they are secretive, deceitful, and paranoid - Adler assumes a peripheral membership role in a groups of dealers and smugglers Getting In - moved to California to do graduate school, started hanging out with neighbour (Dave)and buying marijuana off of him - he began treated them to a fairly regular supply of cocaine - noticed there was something unusual about his use and knowledge of drugs - he always had a plentiful supply and fairly expert knowledge but when tried to buy a small bag he had no idea of the going price - wondered if he might be dealing in larger quantities - started observing his life, his friends were all pretty young and wealthy - never saw them engage in a legitimate job - discussed this with mentor and he got excited by the prospect of living among a group of big dealers and urged them to develop leads into the group - had already done research in the field of drugs, had a generally open view toward soft drug use, and age was suitable to fit in the group - became better friends with their neighbour and built friendships with his friends - gave them a chance to know us and form judgments about our trustworthiness by jointly pursuing those interests and activities which we had in common - one day one of his friends turned the conversation to a trip from Mexico transporting marijuana on a plane, Dave tried to get them to be quiet but they continued - later Dave admitted he was a member of a smuggling crew and a major marijuana dealer on the side, he said he knew he could trust them - from then on he was open in discussing the nature of his dealing and smuggling activi- ties - he was a member of a smuggling crew that was importing a ton of marijuana weekly and 40 kilos of cocaine every few months - the men all had a large physical stature and the women were all extremely attractive and stylishly dressed - Dave reconnected with his ex-wife Jean and they befriended her and a number of women who hung around the dealers and smugglers - once realized the scope of the activities, saw the enormous research potential - different from anything in the literature because of the scope they were dealing and the fact that they were important it themselves - discussed the idea of doing a study of the general subculture with Dave and several of his closest friends assuring their anonymity and confidentiality - they were happy to reciprocate our friendship by being help to our professional ca- reers, in fact they basked in the subsequent attention we gave their lives - began y collecting their life histories in details through taped, in-depth interviews with an unstructured, open-ended format - continued to do interviews for the next 6 years until 1980 when they moved - occasionally did follow-up interviews to record the continuing unfolding of events - relationship with Dave took on an added dimension - the research relationship which involves some form of mutual exchange - they offered everything that friendship could entail, did routine favors for them in their everyday lives, offered insights and advice from a more respectable position, wrote let- ters on their behalf when they got in trouble, testified as character witnesses at their non-drug-related trials and loaned them money when they were down and out - visited him in prison - while Dave was in prison, his ex-wife got together with an ex-boyfriend which was a significant turning point - Jean looked up Dave’s old dealing connections and went into the business herself - she soon moved into the cocaine business which brought them in contact with different people - these people knew Dave and his associates but didn’t deal directly with him - more diverse range of subjects - Dave’s release from prison brought involvement to a deeper level - he was broke and had nowhere to go so they let him live at their house, he stayed for 7 months - watched him go from a scared ex-con who would never break the law again to a hard- working legitimate employee who only dealt to get money for his children, to a full-time dealer with no pretensions at legitimate work - in addition to helping directly through their own experiences, the key informants aided in widening the circle of contacts - they would let them know when someone was coming over that they would want to talk to and vouch for their trustworthiness The Covert Role - the nature of dealing drugs made the adopt of an overt research role highly sensitive and problematic - key informants agreed they should be discrete - for many of the people, they took a covert role - as nonparticipants in the business activities, it was less difficult to be fully accepted - were accepted as “wise” which was there role - in overt position they showed interest in activities, encouraged them to talk about themselves and ran home to write field notes - advantage of gaining access to unapproachable people while avoiding researcher ef- fects but prevented them from asking some necessary questions and tape recording - sought at times to build toward the overt role, and did this by developing trust Developing Trust - can be slow and difficult - met people at different times and constantly had different levels of trust - tried to cultivate trust by doing favors - offering the use of phone, car or home - found that trust in large part, was not a simple status to attain in the drug world - trust is an on-going developmental process - can be re-questioned at any point - not one-way The Overt Role - intuitively feel when the time was right to approach them and go overt - used 2 means of approving people: direct and indirect - direct was asking them for their help with the prefers - indirect was by having key informants approach friends - some people reacted well and others were skittish - varied depending on their involved in the business - there was a number of tactical difficulties - one problem was coming on too fast and blowing it - a second problem was juggling overt and covert roles with different people, this creat- ed the danger of getting our cover blown with people who did not know about the re- search Cross-Checking - the hidden nature of the drug-dealing world made them feel the need for extreme cer- tainty about the reliability of their data - based all conclusions on independent sources and accounts that were verified - first, tested information against own common sense and general knowledge - second, checked out information against a variety of reliable sources - own observa- tions of the scene, key informants reports, and independent accounts (e.g. Jean) - finally, checked out account against hard facts: newspapers and magazines, arrest records, material possessions, and visible evidence Problems and Issues 1. The effect of drugs on the data-gathering process - cocaine helped but marijuana didn’t - primary obstacle was the effects of the drug - marijuana they got confused, sleepy, co- caine their inhibitions were lowered 2. Assuming risks while doing research - most afraid of the people they studied, mem- bers of a deviant group can become hostile toward a researcher if they think they are being treated wrongly - had to protect research tapes, encountered several threats to their tapes - were fearful of the police, worried they would discover their research and confiscate the tapes and notes - held back on publicity about research - afraid of danger of arrest themselves through their own law violations - field researchers studying deviance must break the law in order to acquire valid data - this occurs in its most innocuous form from having “guilty knowledge” information by being present at the scene of the crime and witnessing its occurrence - broke the law through “guilty actions” as well by taking part in illegal behaviour - con- suming and possessing drugs - it would be impossible for a nonuser to gain access 3. Cultural clash between research subjects and themselves - present vs future orienta- tions, desire for risk vs security, feelings of spontaneity vs self-discipline - repeatedly saw dealers act irrationally, setting themselves up for failure and felt a pull between their detached observer role and involved participant role 4. Ethical problems - necessary because they can never fully align themselves with their subjects while maintaing their identity and personal commitment to the scientific com- munity - dilemmas related to the amount of deception researchers use in gathering the data and the degree to they have accepted such acts as necessary and neutralized them - guarding secrets told during taped interviews was not pleasant - using the covert role generated feelings of guilt despite the necessity - also felt guilty about efforts
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