Biography[ edit ] A student of Eric Wolf and influenced by the work of French social theorists Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault , he is considered an important proponent of neo-Marxist theory and of critical medical anthropology. It won the C. Many of his books and articles have been translated for foreign publication. In graduate school he worked for the Agrarian Reform ministry in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution and was a human rights activist on Capitol Hill advocating against military aid to the government of El Salvador in

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From to , during the earliest years of the crack epidemic, Bourgois lived in El Barrio, hung out in crackhouses, and befriended people involved the underground economy. Mainstream American society then uses their struggles against them as evidence that they are unable to assimilate and do not deserve support or recognition from the public. Indeed, everyone initially assumes that Bourgois is an undercover police officer. But despite this expertise in controlling his image, Ray is completely unable to function in mainstream society because the underground and legal economies require different kinds of cultural capital.

After Puerto Rico became a U. East Harlem has long been a poor immigrant neighborhood where each generation turns against the next; Bourgois witnesses conflict between Italians and Puerto Ricans switch to tension between Puerto Ricans and Mexican newcomers.

Scholarly and popular literature about East Harlem has emphasized its poverty, violence, and rampant drug economy, which the Italian American Mafia did its best to promote in the first half of the 20th century. The government also perpetuated these problems in the neighborhood by demolishing huge swaths of it to build public housing projects and ramping up drug trafficking enforcement, which led smugglers to switch from trafficking marijuana to the less conspicuous cocaine. In Chapter 4, Bourgois looks at what happens when each of his friends joins the legal economy.

His friends both resent and accept the perception that they are too lazy for high-quality jobs. When working at a mailroom, Primo considers his boss Gloria a threat to his masculinity and autonomy, even though she is actually trying to help him succeed in life.

She is beaten by her father throughout her childhood and gang-raped by her boyfriend Felix and his friends. Soon after, Felix gets Candy pregnant and convinces her to marry him. For the next two decades, he brutally beats her almost daily, causing her to miscarry five times. But Candy does not see this as unusual—she blames herself up until she catches Felix sleeping with her sister and shoots him in outrage. When Felix goes to jail, he leaves Candy alone with five children and no money, so she begins selling drugs.

Bourgois watches many of his young neighbors grow up to be drug dealers. This puts single mothers in a double-bind: they are seen as neglecting their children when they work, but freeloaders when they do not.

And, in the public eye, they are associated with the crack epidemic far more than men, due to the perception that their working lifestyle means that they are neglecting and corrupting their children. Observing how the drug epidemic splinters families and damages young children, Bourgois convinces Primo to stop selling crack to pregnant women.

In Chapter 8, Bourgois delves deeper in how fathers in El Barrio justify their neglect. He argues that these men actually do more harm to their families when they are present than when they are absent, since most of them are violent. Caesar and Primo often take pride in ignoring their children, beating their girlfriends, and having sex with as many women as possible, though they hate their own fathers for the same behavior.

At other times, they idolize nuclear families and wish they could be role models for their children. Yet Caesar and Primo inevitably cycle through short-lived, abusive relationships and end up abandoning their partners and children.

This toxic cycle ensures that women in El Barrio learn never to trust or rely upon men. State policies also make the problem an economic one, since people incur higher taxes and reduced eligibility for government assistance when they enter the legal workforce. Bourgois argues that drug decriminalization, improved working conditions, and livable wages would give inner-city residents the incentive to transition out of the underground economy.

Many of them remain involved with drugs and some end up in jail; others manage to transition into sobriety and conventional work, with a select few even moving out of East Harlem. Most notably, by , Primo gets sober and transitions into the legal market, but still has to deal with unfair treatment at work and struggles in his personal life. Jennings, Rohan.

Retrieved March 10, Copy to Clipboard.


Philippe Bourgois






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