On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City [NOOK Book]

Overview

A RIVETING, GROUNDBREAKING ACCOUNT OF HOW THE WAR ON CRIME HAS

TORN APART INNER-CITY COMMUNITIES

Forty years in, the tough on crime turn in American politics has spurred a prison boom of historic proportions that disproportionately affects Black communities. It has also torn at the lives of those on the outside. As arrest quotas and high tech surveillance criminalize entire blocks, a climate of ...

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On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City

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Overview

A RIVETING, GROUNDBREAKING ACCOUNT OF HOW THE WAR ON CRIME HAS

TORN APART INNER-CITY COMMUNITIES

Forty years in, the tough on crime turn in American politics has spurred a prison boom of historic proportions that disproportionately affects Black communities. It has also torn at the lives of those on the outside. As arrest quotas and high tech surveillance criminalize entire blocks, a climate of fear and suspicion pervades daily life, not only for young men entangled in the legal system, but for their family members and working neighbors.

      Alice Goffman spent six years in one Philadelphia neighborhood, documenting the routine stops, searches, raids, and beatings that young men navigate as they come of age. In the course of her research, she became roommates with Mike and Chuck, two friends trying to make ends meet between low wage jobs and the drug trade. Like many in the neighborhood, Mike and Chuck were caught up in a cycle of court cases, probation sentences, and low level warrants, with no clear way out. We observe their girlfriends and mothers enduring raids and interrogations, “clean” residents struggling to go to school and work every day as the cops chase down neighbors in the streets, and others eking out a living by providing clean urine, fake documents, and off the books medical care. This fugitive world is the hidden counterpoint to mass incarceration, the grim underside of our nation’s social experiment in punishing Black men and their families. While recognizing the drug trade’s damage, On The Run reveals a justice system gone awry: it is an exemplary work of scholarship highlighting the failures of the War on Crime, and a compassionate chronicle of the families caught in the midst of it.

"A remarkable feat of reporting . . . The level of detail in this book and Goffman’s ability to understand her subjects’ motivations are astonishing—and riveting."—The New York Times Book Review

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/15/2014
Goffman (sociology, Univ. of Wisconsin) draws on the best traditions of participant-observer research. Embedded for six years in a Philadelphia neighborhood, the author documents the ways in which policing has created "fugitive communities." The book opens with a graphic account of an unprovoked beating and proceeds to describe how the victim must avoid medical attention to stay on the correct side of parole rules. Through characters, narratives, and descriptions, Goffman lays out the contradictions and tensions of trying to "stay right." While sympathetic, the author comes across as neither nostalgic nor forgiving. She provides a direct look at the complicated lives of her subjects and draws the reader into the myriad ways in which "the highly punitive approach to crime control winds up being counterproductive, creating entirely new domains of criminality." Goffman's observations are often tragic, but always suspenseful and sometimes even hilarious. (She documents the market for "clean" urine to pass drug tests.) As well as offering commentary, Goffman draws extensively on the social science literature for guidance and explanation. Perhaps that should have been a giveaway, but it was only when perusing the references that this reviewer realized the author is also the daughter of the late sociologist and author Erving Goffman. VERDICT This is an academic book that will appeal to general readers.—Ahmer Qadeer, Brooklyn
The New York Times Book Review - Alex Kotlowitz
On the Run is, first and foremost, a remarkable feat of reporting…The level of detail in this book and Goffman's ability to understand her subjects' motivations are astonishing—and riveting…More than anything, Goffman helps us understand why residents of this neighborhood make the seemingly cockeyed choices they do, often for very rational reasons, often because they know well the repercussions of the alternative…You can't read this book without a growing sense of understanding as well as outrage.
Publishers Weekly
02/10/2014
When University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Goffman, at the time a sophomore college student, moved into a lower-income black neighborhood in Philadelphia, she began a six-year immersion in the swelling world of fugitives in America, where nearly five million people are on probation or parole. In her first book, Goffman offers an ethnographic account focusing on the impact of probation and parole practices on one community, where living under “fear of capture and confinement” transforms lives. Opportunities for employment, access to medical care, and availability of housing are affected, and relationships are stressed by heavy surveillance, as well as by police threats and violence directed at people linked to former prisoners. Residents fashion ingenious coping methods: the bail office may serve as a bank; a hospital janitor may mend a broken arm; an underground economy provides essential documents. Though Goffman is white, this is markedly not a tale about a white woman in a black world; “A Methodical Note,” appended to the text, details her gradual, intimate access to this community. This is a remarkable chronicle, informed by Goffman’s scholarship, detailed from personal experience as “participant observer,” and related with honesty and compassion. (Apr.)
Times Higher Education
“This is a truly wonderful book that identifies the casualties of the war on drugs that extend beyond the prison walls. The punitive ghettoisation of the poor leaves few families untouched. The detail is incredible. The research is impeccable. Read it and weep."

 

New York Times Book Review - Alex Kotlowitz
“A remarkable feat of reporting.”
LSE Review of Books
"Extraordinary. . .  . The best work of ethnography I have read in a very, very long time."
New Yorker - Malcolm Gladwell
"An exceptional book. . . . Devastating."
Los Angeles Review of Books
"Powerful. . . . It's clear that Goffman didn’t just research this book; she lived it. . . . Goffman has a gift for bringing to life the troubles and anxieties of ordinary people. . . . Invaluable. . . . A dramatic record of how race is still a key predictor of whether or not some young Americans will have a chance at a 'pursuit of happiness.'"
From the Publisher
"Extraordinary."—Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker 

"A remarkable feat of reporting…The level of detail in this book and Goffman’s ability to understand her subjects’ motivations are astonishing—and riveting."—The New York Times Book Review

"Necessary… Goffman's lively prose—communicated in a striking voice rare for an academic—opens a window into a life where paranoia has become routine… She goes beyond her street-level focus to argue something more profound."—Baltimore City Paper

"Alice Goffman's On the Run is the best treatment I know of the wretched underside of neo-liberal capitalist America. Despite the social misery and fragmented relations, she gives us a subtle analysis and poignant portrait of our fellow citizens who struggle to preserve their sanity and dignity." —Cornel West

Cornel West
"Alice Goffman's On the Run is the best treatment I know of the wretched underside of neo-liberal capitalist America. Despite the social misery and fragmented relations, she gives us a subtle analysis and poignant portrait of our fellow citizens who struggle to preserve their sanity and dignity."
Howard Becker
"On the Run tells, in gripping, hard-won detail, what it’s like to be trapped on the wrong side of the law with no way out—the situation of so many young Black Americans today. A brilliant fieldworker and a smart analyst of what she saw and heard, Goffman has made a lasting contribution to our understanding of the administration of the law, urban life and race relations, in a book you will never forget reading."
Carol Stack
"By turns On the Run is heartbreaking and clear-eyed, sad and entangled. With rich ethnographic detail, Alice Goffman reveals the emotional arc of deceptively complex young lives that are criminalized daily in one Black neighborhood in Philadelphia. A triumphant achievement!"
Elijah Anderson
"On the Run is riveting—a clear-headed and sobering account of the 'way it is' for too many of the nation's young black men who live in the killing fields called American cities. It reveals how the everyday lives of these men—their loved ones—are closely monitored  and mined for evidence that is then used against them, exacerbating their alienation and fueling the prison-industrial complex. This brilliant book should be required reading for everyone, including President Obama, Congress, and public officials throughout the nation."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226136851
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/22/2014
  • Series: Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 56,022
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

ALICE GOFFMAN grew up in Philadelphia and attended graduate school at Princeton University. She teaches in the sociology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City.

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Table of Contents

Prologue
PrefaceIntroduction

1   The 6th Street Boys and Their Legal Entanglements
2   Techniques for Evading the Authorities
3   When the Police Knock Your Door In
4   Turning Legal Troubles into Personal Resources
5   The Social Life of Criminalized Young People
6   The Market in Protections and Privileges
7   Clean People
Conclusion: A Fugitive Community

Epilogue: Leaving 6th Street
Acknowledgments
Appendix: A Methodological Note
Notes
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2014

    Very Interesting book on Inner City Life

    The author was "inbedded" in a low-income high crime neighborhood in Philly and relays her first hand account of life for young black men trying to manage the criminal and justice system. In light of recent events in Ferguson it helped me understand the pressures these youth face in day to day life in their neighborhood.

    I was most interested in how the author was able to be immersed in this world as a Jewish white women from a somewhat wealthy family. She truly went "undercover" and left most of her friends behind. I read some criticism that she engaged in some questionable activities to stay close to the subjects she was covering. Very interesting reading.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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