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In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences) Paperback – January 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0521017114 ISBN-10: 0521017114 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521017114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521017114
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Some of the best ethnographic research being conducted today concerns the use of crack cocaine in different inner- and outer-cities. Anthropologist Philippe Bourgois spent several years studying the crack trade in his East Harlem community...He was able to gain entry to a world of economic, gender, age, and ethnic relationships that are closed to representatives of official society." ICCA Journal

"offers one of the most closely observed accounts we are likely to get of the urban crack provides a fascinating account of the obstacles crack sellers face as they seek to earn a living." New York Review of Books

"Now In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, by Philippe Bourgois, brings the lives of these crack dealers 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....Bourgois offers us truly culturally privileged information...for anyone interested in the brutal truth about drug dealing in our inner cities, In Search of Respect is the place to look." Washington Post Book World

"...[a] masterful study of the drug trade in upper Manhattan....[a] fascinating book....Bourgois' wealth of detail adds greatly to his picture of the internal logic of ghetto life....Bourgois' portraits are so carefully executed, so unflinching, that it's impossible to walk away from this book without a profoundly different perspective on the inner city." London Review of Books

Book Description

This classic, ethnographic study of social marginalization in inner-city America , won acclaim after it was first published in 1995 and in 1997 was awarded the Margaret Mead Award. This new edition adds a prologue describing the major dynamics in America in the 1990s that have altered life on the streets of East Harlem. A new epilogue brings up to date the stories of the people Primo, Caesar, Luis, Tony, Candy who readers come to know in this remarkable window onto the world of the inner city drug trade.

Customer Reviews

I re-read it from time to time.
He presents his informants in THEIR OWN WORDS --- which is exactly what a good anthropologist SHOULD DO in their writings.
Much much cheaper than buying it in the collage book store!!

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Vato-Curandero on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Almost everyone I know who has read this book agrees that it is a very well-written, as the author uses a plain, easy-to-read and understand style. This is a break with the usual, post-modern jargon that is common among anthropologists today. By the way, Bourgois is NOT a sociologist. He is an anthropologist. Sociologists typically do not engage in five years of participant observation among their informants, but prefer instead to rely on quantitative data. Philippe Bourgois is a medical anthropologist at UC-San Francisco.

A lot of those who have reviewed this book do not understand Bourgois's main argument. He is arguing that answers to society's most pressing issues are a lot more than mere blame-the-system or blame-the-victim approaches. It is far too common for liberals and conservatives, respectively, to blame society or to blame pathological, flawed individuals for social problems. As Bourgois shows in this book, the truth is often a combination of the two. Even his informants admit that they blame no one else but themselves for the situations they are in.

Because Bourgois holds both individuals and larger social structures responsible for the epidemic drug crisis in America, he is bound to piss off both the left and the right with this book. Liberals will claim he is blaming the victim, portraying inner-city people as fundamentally flawed, and tarnishing the image of people living in poverty. Conservatives, on the other hand, will do a complete 180 - and claim that the author is making excuses for criminal behavior, drug abuse, and other social ills. Both the left and the right will accuse Bourgois of glorifying drug abuse and crime - which I strongly DO NOT believe he is doing.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tina Czekajewski on January 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
In the spirit of Bourgois, let me introduce myself. I'm a suburban white woman with a background in history. I was assigned to read this book for an "Aspects of Deviance" Sociology class. Bourgois' approach to his research makes a lot of sense to me since I was taught (as a would-be historian) to take into account all backgrounds and prejudices of the author, the reader, and the characters (if applicable). Perhaps something that makes the read so easy is that the author so willingly points out his own thoughts and biases. This is not to say that our job as readers becomes only to sit back and enjoy the story, but it makes it easier to filter through the author's analyses in order to modify the conclusion for yourself. Importantly, he liberally uses transcriptions of actual dialogues with the East Harlem crack dealers whom he befriends over three-plus years. Having that kind of access to the source of his research is invaluable in judging the situation for yourself.
As for the content, I can think of no better way for me to get a glimpse into that kind of life and neighborhood. One of the only other books that comes close is an autobiography by Nathan McCall called Makes Me Wanna Holler. This book covers his experience going from a gang member in the 1970's to "goin' legit" as a journalist and often revisiting the demons of his past.
Because the author discusses the idea of objectivity and various definitions of it, I want to mention one movie for anyone interested in better understanding how biases affect otherwise factual accounts. Courage Under Fire is a good example of understanding how various views, motives, and biases color different people's accounts.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth VINE VOICE on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be one of the best I have ever read at exploring the tensions and struggles with living among, working with, and writing about poor, inner-city minorities. The book is relevant to, and I believe would be helpful to, social workers, educators, ethnographers/researchers, policy makers, and more. The author does an EXCELLENT job at making clear that there are not easy answers. In ways, of course, the people in the book are victims of poverty, of disenfranchisement, of racism.... But, as other reviewers have pointed out, they are also often violent people who take part in such awful acts as gang rape. How does that come together? As people who work in or write about such communities (or make laws that apply to those who live there) how can we understand these contradictions? What role can we play in that? What responsibility to the privileged of the US have to those who are severely underprivileged?
This book explores both the technical aspects of the underground economy, specifically crack, as well as the moral and ethical questions that surround it.
I did find that the book has shortcomings-- as other reviewers have expressed, I'm not sure how comfortable I was with some of the "takes" Bourgois has on some of the people and situations in the book. However, I believe that there is no perfect book out there, especially on such a difficult and complex topic, and that over all the book is very important in exploring and addressing the issues that surround inner-city life and, in particular, the drug trade.
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