…This danger is all the more pressing in light of the unwritten “code of writing about the (black) poor” in U.S. sociology, which one can extract from these three books and the enthusiastic reception they have received.
It comprises ﬁve cardinal rules. First, you shall scrutinize their morality and separate the worthy from the unworthy (if under less openly judgmental terminology).
Second, you shall spotlight the deeds of the worthy poor, exalt their striving, strength, and creativity, and emphasize success stories, even as they are marginal and nonreplicable.
Third, you shall scrupulously eschew issues of power and domination, and therefore studiously repress the political roots and dimensions of the phenomenon—whence the ritualized exhortation to the “opening of opportunity.”
Fourth, you shall at once highlight empirically and euphemize analytically the intrusion and speciﬁcity of racial subjugation.
Last but not least, you shall bring good news and leave the reader feeling reassured that individual- and local-level remedies are ready at hand to alleviate if not resolve
a societal quandary.
These precepts of academic etiquette inscribe the century-old commonsense vision of poverty and racial division in the”
United States into its sociology, ensuring the smooth expurgation of everything that would so much as graze this bedrock of national self-understanding.
Loic Wacquant, going in.
Kind of in love with this essay right now.
From “Scrutinizing the Street: Poverty, Morality, and the Pitfalls of Urban Ethnography,” American Journal of Sociology, 2002.