Sunday, February 27, 2011

Notes for Summary

Sociology 510

Dr. Steve Groce

Terry Elliott


Liebow echoes Jyndon Johnson's 'war on poverty' as unfortunate a metaphor as has ever been promoted.

Fast forward from past to present--poverty has always been with us, in 1963 25% poor, 30% black. The Black Poor are more extreme and tend to be generational.

A paucity of studies on male poverty as opposed to female and children.

Black male is written off as beyond help and as needing to help himself. NO research necessary.

Black male is 'harder to reach'--one might say that there are fewer leverage points on him-no children or mothers of children to act as a place to pry forth research information.

And like the carpenter every problem looks like a nail, every black problem tends to look like the problems of children and mothers.

The black subjects tha can be studied are 'captive' and thus the sample is skewed toward that bias.

Upshot? Expand range of research into to lower-class life. But there are problems including the validity of interview and questionnaire techniques.Gr8 response in fokotnote on 4 on page 9 that points to the problem of assuming that responses to questionaires and surveys mean the same thing to lower and middle class folks.

Purpose of study? Coming to 'grouind' with lower class folk on their turf and their terms.

Participant observation (P/O) methdology not questionaires and structured interviews intended to give a ground level icture of the world of lower class Negro men, not hypothesis testing.

I can't help but think how brave this was of these researchers to buck the quant tide and do this very different and powerful methodology--exploratiroy not designed.

24 men form the sample of the study which was conducted at all hours over a single year on street corners and varioius 'haunts and hangouts' for these men.

The researchers state the 'sense' was not built into the data, but rather it was made post hoc with a simple framework--streetcorner man as father/husband/lover/friend/breadwinner. I.e. commonly accepted behavioral roles that fit in all classes and can be categorized similarly.

I feel I am missing something in footnote 6 on page 12. Maybe we could talk about this in class.

The roles-based categories are not just imposed on them from outside but they are relationships that make common sense to the subjects of the study. They see themselves as hasbands, fathers, frieinds, lvoers, etc. This fit makes us do less violence to the data.

And... it makes cross-class comparison simpler and more plausible.

Researchers are not attempting to generalize outside of the context of the study. Neither are they saying that their subjects are abjectly idiosykncratic. No random sampling, in fact the study came to be by accident. The point? All research is contextualized and particular, but that context is fixed in time and place and hence is representative of someting larger.

I love how the resarchers summarizing all of street and streetcorner and public lower class life as trouble, tghrill, fate and fall.

Purpose again is examine a miniature and to make sense of it in place and to offer an explanation.


Researchers situate the reader in the 'archetypal' corner store then moves us out into the community as if moving fromthe heart to the hands. Place moves toward people as they describe the residents. Stats show hard times, but not all are "poor, dependent, and delinquent" but leans toward the "overcrowded, broken-plaster end of the scale."

And quite nicely the narrative returnes ot the Corner Shop and its description. I think this is a very good pattern and one I might adopt in my onw research into Skkype use by my doctoral cohort.

Bizarre observation in footnote about women eating Argo Starch.

This is at first an 'outside-in' view of the men in the corner milieu that moves very quickly to individual characterizations.

Page 28 reads like the dramatis personae of a play.

Chapter 5 Lovers and Exploiters (one of the chracterizations that the authors spoke of as useful earlier)

Exploitative characteristic of relationships both male and female. Men present themselves as such and expect other men to act self same toward women--sex objects and 'piggy banks'. Countervailing forces give the lie to these expression of exploitation. In ohter words all parties have a strong capacity for self-denial.

Interesting use of 'capital' metaphor tod describe the exploitation of relationship. to not exploit is to not cash in and hence to show oneself as a bad businessman. Marx would love to describe how the structural system of capitalism actually forces its denizens to embody its principles.

Men divide the world of women int nice and not nice only the latter which can be exploted. These roads separately taken justify sexual gamesmanship and romantic idealism.

You use contraception with not nice girls and don't with nice girls- the former is seen as contractual with no entangelments expected or wanted, the latter is seen as non-contractual with future entanglements as allowed, i.e. kids.

Again, the characterization is broad and not generalizable even among this small sample of men. In other words, as Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds and the exploitative and non-exploitative wind around within relationships as well. That would make perfect sense, too, because once a schema is developed then other purposes may certainly be made of them.

Neat how the larger category can be used as a container for other categories which subsequently have holes punched in them to demonstrate that relationships have flux.

A Field Experience in Retrospect

Lol, ' adamned fine reading of Snow White...."

LIebow describes himself in the context of the study (someting I will have to do in my study of Skype in a doctoral cohort.)

Prepring for the Field

Dr. Hylan Lewis' advice for all ethnographers: all is grist for the mill of the project.

Talk things over at a general, feeling out level.

Look over project literature.

Make like an anthropologistr.

Observe the encompassable, not the all-encompassing.

In the Field

Complete submersion led to a change in research plans from a neat and clean, boundaried one to an excursion of poking about and rock turning that stayed pretty close to his corner store 'home'. Leibow fully intended to return to his well marked research field to plow the next day, but as he put it 'tomorrow never came."

REsearch as a series of stories. Meeting people and talking as research. Gaining confidants and confidence as research. Liebow feels as if he is reaching a minimal state of belonging whatever that is it cannot be measured but it can be shown. How? By indicating how he was becoming a street corner man in training.

Research as a leap of faith and of following one's nose. IN the case of Lonny it meant inserting one into the subject of one's research. To research is to be human and humane. No sense of manipulaton or that Lonny was his research ticket to ride although some might think it so.

Interesting to see the word 'entrenched' in a research paper and glad of it. Yet he knokws that he is at best a tolerated outsider. Liebow in his insightful way recognizes that any thoughts that he was otherwise would be "vanity". Yet he subscribes to the Swiftian idea that while a community might not consider you anything other than a white man, some Tom, Dick and Harry's might. Some might bring you into their circle. Two contrarites ideas held simultaneously-genius. The metaphor of a chainlink fence is this genuis personified. Separate but equal?

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