Sometimes (but not often enough) a book from class is a great read!

I (was forced to) read In Search Of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio by Phillpe Bourgois in on of my anthropology classes and now it’s one of my favorite books. The book provides detailed insight into the lives of crack dealers in East Harlem in the early 1990s. Bourgois studied the drug economy there for 3 years, moving his wife and new born into East Harlem. What he found is truly amazing- a society that has it’s own value system. Bourgois argues this has developed due to the plight of the poor who have been rejected from society. In search of respect, they create a new value system they are able to uphold. The detailed insight into the lives of those both overlooked and condemned by society is a perspective rarely seen. The book is a very humanizing element in discussion about drugs or the poor, for it showcases the daily lives and struggle of individuals one can easily identify with. It reveals that the drug economy is not an effective method of providing an income, but becomes a last ditch effort at survival for those unable to find employment. In Search of Respect has changed my perspective on society and the drug war. After reading this, it seems to me the people most hurt by both the drug economy and the war on drugs are already marginalized and never really had a fair shot at getting out of poverty. You can find In Search of Respect in Snell library, I recommend you give it a read!

2 thoughts on “Sometimes (but not often enough) a book from class is a great read!”

  1. Yay! I (as you know) was forced to read, create a powerpoint on, and present Bourgois’ book. I remember those weeks leading up to it when I would eye the little book (it has a hideous cover, I must say) with dread and loathing, associating it only with the fact that i would be forced to read, comprehend AND communicate it to the class.
    I too was pleasantly surprised with how incredible it ended up being. I actually think that the thing about it that was most amazing (from an anthro major’s point of view) was how inspiring his commitment to the ethnography was and how thoroughly he leapt into his life as part of the Harlem drug community. ‘What he has done,’ I remember thinking, ‘is just what I want to aspire to do.’ Actually, the entire little Bourgois family is very endeared to me now – his wife must be so awesome to agree to move to Harlem with him and his kid is going to grow up to have so many awesome experiences with his anthropologist dad. That’s the family I someday want to have – one that moves together into dangerous environments like crack dens for the sake of anthropology and the diffusion of knowledge.

Comments are closed.