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In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio Philippe Bourgois

1. Explain the authors original conception for the book. How did he prepare to do
ethnographic work in the field? Is this an appropriate method of data collection
for his original research purposes? How else would you conduct such research to
answer such questions 1-2
2. What is the underground economy? Give some examples. Why might some
people engage in the underground economy? What functions does it serve for its
various participants? Finally, how might this present a problem in the urban
3. How might substance abuse serve as mere symptom of large social ills such as the
dynamics of social marginalization and alienation? 2
4. The people studies were not interested in discussing drugs but rather about their
daily struggles for subsistence and dignity at the poverty line. Why is this
significant? How might this pose a problem for a research interested in studying
drugs? 2
5. According to official statistics, the people of Harlems barrios should be homeless
and starving. Most, however, are not. Why? How is this important to our
understanding of the informal economy? Explain.
6. Answer the authors question on page 4 asking why young people would take a
long subway ride to work in a low-paying and often de-humanizing jobs rather
than working in the informal economy in their neighborhood? In fact, instead of
asking why so many people work in the informal economy, we should better

inquire why so many conform to the formal economy. Go ahead; make a good
sociological explanation one way or the other.
7. Whats the problem with relying on US census date on inner city neighborhoods?
8. What is the difficulty of estimation the size of the underground economy? 6
9. What is inner city street culture? 8 Explain
10. How might street culture serve as an alternative forum for personal dignity? 8
11. Can street culture be thought of as cultural creatively in defiance of racism and
marginalization? Explain. 8
12. How is the street culture of resistance co-opted or recuperated into popular
culture? To what aim? 8
13. Although street culture is, in many ways, a search to preserve individual respect
in the face of marginalization and racism, it also has another affect on problems in
urban community. Explain.
14. Why did the author choose addicts, thieves and dealers as his best friends for
observation and study? Explain 11
15. Explain the concept of Puerto Ricos oppositional mentality created in the
struggle experienced during long-term colonial domination. 11
16. Explain some of the problems and contradictions that often comes with
ethnographic fieldworks, the politics or representation and negative stereotyping
especially when it comes to research race and ethnicity in socially marginalized
positions. 11 [Hint: see last line on page 11]
17. What does the author mean by looking at the interaction between structural

oppression and individual actions? 12

18. What is the problem with traditional social science research techniques to study
and understand the experiences of people who survive in the underground
economy? 12
19. Discuss the authors research techniques and methodologies. 12-13 Explain. What
do you think about this method of observation and data collection? Explain. When
should this form of data collection be used? How does this violate the canons of
positivist research?
20. What is the myth of ethnographic authority and hierarchical politics of
representation? 13
21. What is self-conscious reflexivity? 13
22. Explain, in some detail, the profoundly elitist tendency of many post modern
approaches that ethnographically study the other. Give some examples. 14
23. What are some of the methodological problems with participant observation
techniques? Explain. 14 [Re-read pages 14-15, this are very important]
24. What is the culture of poverty thesis? 16 Explain. Why is this type of thinking so
prevalent in popular culture? 16
25. Explain the debate between humans as active agents or passive victims. 17
26. What does the author mean by cultural production theory?

Chapter 1: Violating apartheid in the US

1. Explain the authors major mistake and lack of street smarts that almost lost him
his main griot. 19-22

2. What function does rays ruthlessness and cruelty towards colleagues and
customers in the underground economy play for the effective leadership? 24
3. what is cultural capital? How did Ray lack cultural capital in the dominant culture
though he thrived as a businessman in the informal economy? 28 What are the
consequences of lacking this ability to operate in the formal economy? 28-29
4. Explain some of Bourgoiss problems and conflicts when confronting situations
dealing with race, class and the police. 29-32.
5. Explain the authors observations about racism and the culture of terror. 32 How
do most people view all black neighborhoods like 1980s-1990s Harlem? Why did
most people in the neighborhood leave Felipe alone? How did they view him? 33
6. Explain the concept of culture of terror. 34 How is it created and what are its
7. How does Caesar view cops as part of the problem in urban community? 36
8. What was the 1980s just say not to drugs hysteria? Explain how this is a classic
example of a moral panic. 39
9. Explain the story of how Bourgois gained access into the game room crack house,
achieving eventual entre into this social world. 39
10. Explain the contradictory code of the street ethics Bourgois discovered when first
offered cocaine. 40-41
11. How id Benzie and Primo perceive Bourgois during his first two years of
research/ 43-44
12. Discuss African American and Puerto Rican relations in Harlems street culture.

13. What did some of the main characters of the book, like Caesar, think of
Bourgoiss idea in using these stories to give back to the community? What part
did the characters, main and marginal, want to play in the book? 46-47

Chapter 2: A street history of El Barrio

1. Explain the significance of the term jibaros and why knowing this history helps to
understand many Puerto Ricans in the US, especially NY, today? 50
2. Explain some of the macro structural dislocations Puerto Ricans experienced over
the past two to three generations. Why is this significant background to
understand the lives operating in the informal economy? 52
3. Who has benefited most from the US governments colonization of Puerto Rico?
Explain 52
4. Explain the racist cultural assault may Puerto Ricans have endured moving from
their rural based cultural worlds to urban inner cities like NY. 52-53
5. What is the problem with explaining street life in el barrio with arguments of
structural victimization which serves as an historical apology explanation, 53-54
6. Explain the position many Puerto Ricans operating in the informal economy take
on the whole structure versus agency debate. 54. Include in your discussion the
jibero past, puritan Anglo beliefs, rugged individualism and a survival of fittest
mentality. Is the victim blamed or does personal pathology account for this human
7. How did the alarmed politicians
NYC view the influx of southern Italian immigrants to East Harlem? 58 How

were these groups treated by the local institutions?

8. Comment on the quote on page 59 about the effects of prejudice on ItalianAmerican adolescents.
9. How were Puerto Rican immigrant perceived when entering El Barrio East
Harlem neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s. Explain. 59
10. Explain how mainstream society held the most antipathy for Puerto Rican
immigrants. 61 Include the health hysteria over Puerto Ricans
11. Explain some examples for the poverty and ecological disrepair of East Harlem
that applies to the 1880s to the 1990s. 62-63
12. Explain Thrashers ideas on 1920s and 1930s Italian Harlem and interstitial
areas and concentric circles. 63
13. What do you think of the whole so-called culture of poverty thesis first proposed
by Oscar Lewis? 64
14. Explain the result of urban renewal in 1990s East Harlem. 65 what is anomic
15. Explain some of the effects of physically concentrated and ethnically segregated
poverty for urban communities. 65
16. Compare the East Harlem street scene from an area dominated by speakeasies to
crack houses. 66-67
17. What happened when Bourgois attempted to introduce his neighbor Angel to the
public library? 68
18. Describe the presence of Heroin and cocaine in East Harlem. How did
schoolteachers react to this? 68-69

19. How has the mafia legacy of operating in the underground economy still persist
though with different actors in East Harlem. 69-71
20. Explain the demise of mafia hegemony along with the shift in the underground
economy in the 1980s east Harlem 74-75

Chapter 3: Crack house management: addiction discipline, and dignity

1. How was the crack game room founded? 77
2. How and why did ownership change from Felix to Ray? 77-78 and 81
3. How did primo enjoy reminiscing about his days as a crack addict? 78-79
4. Explain how Ray managed to crack corporate operation in the game room. 81-82
How did this business operate like many other business establishments in the
formal economy: 81-82
5. How did Ray manipulate kinship networks to ensure employee loyalty? 82
6. What kind of work benefits did higher-level employees, like Primo, receive? How
is this similar to a regular job? Why would someone like Primo ever want, if he
could get it, a regular job in the formal economy? 83
7. For people like Primo, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working in
rays crack business? Can one argue that working in the underground economy
offers more human dignity than many working class jobs? Explain. In fact, why
would anyone prefer de-humanizing employment in the formal economy over the
8. What role dos violence and outburst of rage play in performing various jobs, like
lookout, in the informal crack economy? 88

9. What happened when a jealous young man high on angel dust disrespected the
employees at the game room? Why was their action deemed necessary? 88
10. How did Primo and Benzie establish a trust in their business relationships while
working for Ray? 89
11. Why do most street-level crack dealers remain without money during their
careers? Why is this not surprising given the conspicuous consumption mentality
that dominates mainstream society? In this regard, are crack dealers and their
consumption habits different from most working class workers? Explain either
way. 91 [Remind me to talk about waiters and bartenders in NOLA and NY]
12. Discuss how most crack dealers are paid. Why do so many brag to outsiders and
themselves about their incomes? 91 How much do most actually get paid on
regular nights of work?
13. What kinds of jobs did Benzie work at just above minimum wage in the formal
economy? Who was he subservient to in these jobs? 95
14. Explain how Benzie explained the difficulty in maintaining respect in the entry
level legal economy. 96 Explain some of your experiences of this same
challenge, indeed, most of us have experienced this
15. Explain the relationship between ones being denied access of the legitimate
means of achieving established cultural goals, drug addiction, dependency on the
crack economy, economic survival and maintaining personal dignity. 98
16. Discuss willies struggles while working in the brutal and poor paying conditions
of the legal labor market. 98 What problems does this realty of working in the
legal labor market create for urban communities?

17. Discuss the management-labor conflict at Rays game room. 99 How did Primos
importance in Rays network erode? 99-100. In your discussion, included the
example of management-labor conflict exemplified with Caesar and Primos
conversation on page 102. Also, include the internalization of labor-management
antagonism between Primo and Caesar and Tony that escalated when three
bundles of crack disappeared. 103-104
18. How did Primo deal with security issues in the Game Room? 105-106, 108 What
role did the author unknowingly contribute to the security of the game room? 108
19. How does the author explain the invulnerability of Rays crack house to police
control. Explain 109
20. Explain some of the precautions Ray and his workers took to minimize the risk of
arrest. 109-110 How did Primo avoid four years of incarceration on his last
arrest? 110
21. What are some of the problems with the New York State penal system and drug
arrests? 112 How did this effect Primo? 112-113

Chapter 4: Goin legit: disrespect and resistance at work

1. Explain some of the consequences of restructuring of the US economy from
factory to service jobs for many working class people, especially Puerto Ricans.
2. Discuss the contradictions of obedience to high scale office culture and street
cultures definition of personal dignity. 115
3. What kinds of legal employment have many game room regulars held in their

lives? What does this tell you about many of their decisions to enter the informal
crack economy? 115
4. Is the straightforward refusal to be exploited in the legal labor market an act of
heroism? Is the legal labor market exploitative? Explain. What is exploitation? Is
this resistance to the legal labor market a triumph of free will and resistance to
dominations? 115 Lets discuss this important point.
5. Is working at Burger King, McDonalds and other similar establishments as Caesar
so puts it, slavery-ing? Explain. Is he, as he self-describes, lazy for not taking
such employment? 117
6. Explain some of the consequences to the perception of self when struggling to
find employment. Primo serves as a fine example. 119-123
7. What does the author mean by internalizing unemployment? 123
8. Re-read Primo and Willies conversation while on heroin, crack and rum. What
insights into the world of drug users does this discussion provide you? explain.
9. Explain the problems (individual and structural) Primo had with finding any kind
of bullshit job. 120
10. How is crack dealing and unemployment culturally redefined as a badge of pride
for some young men on the streets? Explain. 130
11. Comment on Caesars conversation with the more economically successful
Mexican immigrant. 130-131
12. Explain the conflicts Primo, Caesar and even Ray have over celebrating rebellion
and wanting to go legit. What factor does cultural capital and exclusion play in

this discussion? 132-133

13. Explain the different types of cultural capital needed to work in the formal/legal
and informal/illegal economy. Why did Ray operate better in the latter? 135
14. Do you agree with the authors assessment that mainstream society evokes racial
stereotypes to dismiss people like Primo, Caesar and Ray as loser, pathological,
lazy and self-destructive? 137
15. Explain the cultural production theory argument that places immigrant and 2nd and
3rd generation Puerto Rican immigrants in their economic and political structural
location. 137 Is this structural political-economic understanding best to
understand the life-worlds of these men? What rare the benefits and problems
with such an approach?
16. What is the immigrant working class dream? [Remind me to discuss their concept
with my experiences growing up in an immigrant family.]
17. Explain this idea of working class ideologies and the values associated with them.
139 What does this have to do with dropping out of school?
18. How doe these working class ideologies, and values, associated with them,
conflict with the changing economy of often highly feminized office support
service work? 141 Discuss.
19. How do the old factory jobs conflict less with working class, or even oppositional
street culture values/ explain. 141-142
20. Thinking about the last two important questions, summarize how oppositional
street and working class culture values work effectively in the factory but remain
totally dysfunctional, in most mainstream jobs, and moreover, mainstream society

in general [Remind me to discuss the Mexican pulqueria, the Brooklyn coffee

shop, the NOLA bar, the London punk pub and my friends behavior in a Peruvian
21. How is cultural autonomy and class solidarity lost working in entry-level office
jobs like in a mailroom or behind a photocopy machine? 142
22. How do workers like Caesar and Primo appear to office staff and supervisors?
How do you explain this? Are these men really articulate? How does this reveal
the different types of cultural capital valued and used in working and middle class
cultures? 142
23. What types of clashes occur when street culture meets office services worker
culture? 142-143 What is the clash between yuppie power and the oppositional
street culture power? 143
24. Have Primo and Caesar accepted their structural victimization OR resisted in
innovative ways? Explain 143
25. Using some concrete examples, explain how many of these working class Puerto
Rican men get dissed in the office. How can we explain these behaviors
sociologically? 143-144 Include in your discussion cultural or symbolic capital.
26. How do the following institutions impose Angle middle class cultural capitol in
the following:
a. Education
b. Professional Service Sector
c. Mainstream religion
d. Councilor Services

27. Explain the gender diss. 146 How can we understand this sociologically?
28. How do extreme work inequalities result in misogynistic and sexist reverences on
the part of the lowly worker? Explain 148-149
29. How did Primo and Gloria perceive one another? 153 How can we explain this?
Could Gloria have been a well-intentioned liberal? What does all this have to do
with maintaining dignity? 154
30. Explain some of the weapons of resistance used by so many marginal workers, in
any economy. 155 What are your experiences and strategies? [Remind me to
discuss the OK strategy] Why does this work less well in the office?
31. What is alienated working class culture in the office space? 155
32. Discuss the importance of subcultural style and symbolic power among members
of the working and upper classes. 158 Explain this with our sociological hats on.
33. How do clothes and style become real obstacles in successful employment in the
mainstream economy? See Bourgoiss conversation with Primo. 161
34. Discuss the contradictions between working class ghetto residents gaining legal
employment in demolition and gentrification (bleachification0 projects. 164 Why
do El Barrio young men experience this as positive?
35. Why did Caesar have problems gaining full entry in NYCs construction industry?
Discuss NYs construction union. 162-164
36. What type of scapegoat argument did Caesar and Primo use to compensate for the
structural vulnerability with labor-management confrontations? 166
37. Explain the replay of historical forces between the earlier Italian Americans and

Puerto Ricans and the current Puerto Ricans and newly arriving Mexicans to
NYC. 167-168
38. Discuss (169) the experiences of new Mexican immigrants, their participation in
the new service economy, and, at least temporarily, lack of concern for the slight
to self that influences other New York born ethnic groups.
39. Explain what becoming a bicultural inner-city office work implies. 170 What are
the implications of this?
40. What does the author mean by the legitimacy of apartheid in the US? Use some of
your own examples. 173

Chapter 5: School days: learning be a better criminal

1. Explain the idea of immigrant children and their parents confronting cultural
capital in their initial contact with the public school system. Explain some of the
traumatic situations that often occur. 175-176
2. Do you agree with cultural production theorys assertion that teachers
unconsciously process subliminal class and cultural message to hierarchize their
students? Give some concrete examples from the literature and your own life
experiences. 176
3. Explain some of the tangible markers teachers consciously or unconsciously use
to hierarchize students. 176 What other markers might exist?
4. Looking at your response to the last two questions, how might this maintain class
and economic inequalities in the US. Explain
5. How does middle class white dominate society impose its will, its values and

cultural capital on other racial/ethnic and class groups through the use of symbolic
violence? 177
6. Under the guise of liberal value neutrality and objectivity do public schools
remain racist institutions that force mainstream bourgeois Eurocentric values on
other more marginalized groups? Explain.
7. Explain Primos problem as a Nuyorican sent back to Puerto Rico to live with his
grandparents. 178-179
8. Why is it necessary for youths to cultivate violent personas in school, especially
when frequently changing schools. 181-182
9. How does Ceasars conversation with Bourgois reflect battered-child
rationalizations and denials of early childhood abuse? 184-185
10. Make some comments on Caesars school experiences using his conversation with
Bourgois on pages 187-189. In your discussion, include Caesars experiences with
this teachers, girls, and special education students.
11. How did the above conversation force the author to confront anthropologys
methodological caveat of suspending moral judgment? 189
12. How and why do many minority children get labels in the the public school as
emotionally disturbed, learning disabled (low IQ) and placed into an undesirable
class? Lets discuss this.
13. How was Primos future career in the underground economy learned at school?
14. How does the author view graffiti sprayed on the schoolyard walls? 193 Do you

15. Look at the changing demographics of Manhattans Upper East Side and Harlem
using social explorer. Record your observations. Explain.
16. How did people like Primo become incorporated into street crime through
socialization in the peer group? 194-195
17. As a researcher, how did the author deal with the stories of adolescent gang rape?
What issues was he confronted with? How did he deal with them? How would
you deal with such issues? 205
18. Discuss the authors comments after Primos rape story on pg 297 and the
challenges he faced with psychopaths that had become his friends.
19. Explain the authors reservations about reporting his findings on rape in the
Puerto Rican street culture of NY. 207-209 Include in your discussion his
reservations from a political perspective (207) and colluding with the sexist status
20. What does the author mean by the racialized common sense of society? 208
21. Sociologically explain how someone like Primo learns to become a rapist. (208209)
22. What kind of logic did the rapist develop for their actions? 209
23. As a researcher, how would you handle the challenging and painful issues the
researcher confronted on gendered violence and terror?