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Bourgois, Philippe - In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences) - Literature review Example

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One of the central thorough-puts of Chapter 7 ‘Families and Children in Pain’ is the recognition by psychiatrists that much of an individual’s character is established in their infancy. This is further significant as children do not have to be the object of physical…
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Bourgois, Philippe - In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences)
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In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio One of the central thorough-puts of Chapter 7 ‘Families and Children in Pain’ is the recognition bypsychiatrists that much of an individual’s character is established in their infancy. This is further significant as children do not have to be the object of physical violence to be emotionally scarred for life, rather simply being exposed to violence can enact lifelong emotional trauma. When extended to the context of the text, specifically El Barrio, it demonstrates that, “according to the standard psychological theories of early childhood socialization, most people living in El Barrio, and certainly everyone in Ray’s network and the crackhouses…might be dismissed as antisocial sociopaths” (Bourgois 2002, p. 259). While Bourgois (2002) embraces these psychological assumptions, he also recognizes that to a great degree they may neglect the context of specific situations.
As the text advances Bourgois (2002) further investigates these foundational considerations in terms of the structural dynamics of street life. While the text makes a number of qualitative arguments, for instance indicating that it is sociopolitical modes of oppression that are inflicting developmental trauma on individuals in the El Barrio, to a large degree the primary mode of explication is through narrative explanations of the author’s experience. One such notable occurrence when Bourgois notes that his son’s first words were ‘tops, tops, tops’. The text notes that he learned these words because the author would bring his son on crack excursions as a means of demonstrating that he wasn’t an undercover cop; the ‘tops’ referred to different types of crack.
Within the text’s narrative descriptions Bourgois is able to demonstrate the class barriers he experienced. For instance, in attending the museum with his son he notes how guards followed around him as if he was a pedophile parading his prey. When Angel asked why he was being follow so closely he was told, “so you don’t life your leg” (Bourgois 2002, p. 264). While one questions if Bourgois is not being slightly hyperbolic, the descriptive approach is nonetheless effective as it allows the reader to experience the true reality instead of simply reading about it in theoretical terms.
While the chapter largely focuses on the negative and oppressive conditions of the El Barrio existence, it also considers a number of uplifting elements. One of the primary such examples occurs in the text’s description of Maria and Primo’s relationship. In these regards Bourgois contrasts Mario squalid living conditions with the joy she receives from motherhood. Bourgois (2000, p. 273) writes that it, “offered a romantic escape from her objectively difficult surroundings.” Even while Maria gained increased self-esteem through her relationship and motherhood, the same was not true for Primo who experienced a greater degree of anxiety. Primo was largely concerned with his upcoming legal troubles. Ultimately this account, much like the rest of the chapter, follows Bourgois’s strategy of articulating the true El Barrio experience through real life accounts rather than proscriptive theories.
Bourgois, P. (2002). In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge
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