In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

Hardback Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences

By (author) Philippe I. Bourgois

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Hardback | 406 pages
  • Dimensions: 164mm x 237mm x 25mm | 717g
  • Publication date: 24 November 1995
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521435188
  • ISBN 13: 9780521435185
  • Illustrations note: 14 b/w illus. 1 map 1 table

Product description

In this compelling study of the crack business in East Harlem, Philippe Bourgois argues that a cultural struggle for respect has led some residents of 'El Barrio' away from the legal job market, and into a downward spiral of crime and poverty. During his many years living in the neighborhood, Bourgois eventually gained the confianza of enough Barrio residents to present their hopes, plans, and disappointments in their own words. The result is an engaging and often disturbing look at the problems of the inner-city, America's greatest domestic failing.

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Review quote

'In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, by Philippe Bourgois, brings the lives of these crack sellers into brilliant focus. Bourgois' raw and poignant book delivers a message about the economics of exclusion that should shake public perceptions of the inner-city drug trade.' Greg Donaldson, The Washington Post 'Critics have called this 'stunning reporting' and 'riveting' - read it and you will see why.' L. C. C. J. Newsletter

Editorial reviews

An oddly moving study of lives brutalized by drug addiction, poverty, crime, and ineluctable violence. First-time author Bourgois (Anthropology/San Francisco State Univ.) spent five years in a Puerto Rican barrio in East Harlem studying the culture of crack cocaine as another anthropologist would an exotic tribe. He had originally come to study poverty and ethnic segregation, "the political economy of inner-city street culture," but found himself mired in a world conditioned by pervasive, killing drugs, a world on which the literature is surprisingly sparse. The people who inhabit it - men and women with names like Benzie, Little Pete, Gigi, Candy, Primo, and Caesar - are sympathetic, for all their flaws. Most of them are hopeless addicts; most work at jobs where they are paid in vials of crack instead of cash; most see no escape; and by the end of his book, many of Bourgois's informants have died of overdoses, violence, AIDS. None asks for pity, however; "Man, I don't blame where I'm at right now on nobody but myself," remarks one of Bourgois's main subjects, while another, scanning a section of his manuscript, jokes, "Ooh, Felipe! You make us sound like such sensitive crack dealers!" Of interest to professional readers, but probably not to nonspecialists, are Bourgois's thoughts on the theory and practice of anthropological investigation. "Suffering," he writes, "is usually hideous; it is a solvent of human integrity, and ethnographers never want to make the people they study look ugly. This imperative to sanitize the vulnerable is particularly strong in the United States, where survival-of-the-fittest, blame-the-victim theories of individual action constitute a popular 'common sense.' "Bourgois is also strong on identifying cultural continuities, and he draws parallels between latter-day crackhouses and the speakeasies of the Prohibition Era, which serve much the same function in a marginalized subeconomy. Vigorous and often harrowing, this book is an eye-opener. (Kirkus Reviews)

Table of contents

Acknowledgments; Introduction; 1. Violating apartheid in the United States; 2. A street history of El Barrio; 3. Crackhouse management: addiction, discipline, and dignity; 4. 'Goin' legit': disrespect and resistance at work; 5. School days: learning to be a better criminal; 6. Redefining gender on the street; 7. Families and children in pain; 8. Vulnerable fathers; 9. Conclusion; Epilogue.