Unknown City

Overview

The young people defined as "Gen Xers" in the media and popular imagination almost never include poor or working-class young adults. These young people - a huge and important part of our society - are misrepresented and silent in our national conversation. In The Unknown City, Michelle Fine and Lois Weis offer a groundbreaking, theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the lives of young adults (ages 23 to 35), based on hundreds of interviews. We discover their views on everything from the construction of ...
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Overview

The young people defined as "Gen Xers" in the media and popular imagination almost never include poor or working-class young adults. These young people - a huge and important part of our society - are misrepresented and silent in our national conversation. In The Unknown City, Michelle Fine and Lois Weis offer a groundbreaking, theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the lives of young adults (ages 23 to 35), based on hundreds of interviews. We discover their views on everything from the construction of "whiteness" and affirmative action to the economy, education, and new public spaces of community hope. Finally, Fine and Weis point to what is being done and what should be done in terms of national policy to improve the future of these remarkable women and men.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An important book . . . that enhance[s] our understanding of race, class, and gender in late twentieth-century urban America. --William Julius Wilson, author of Poverty in America

"Fine and Weis write with grace and clarity, presenting the powerful voices of oppressed people. . . . The Unknown City is a model of social analysis that points the way towards justice and social transformation." --Manning Marable, author of The Crisis of Color and Democracy

"Without preaching, [Fine and Weis] give readers a sense of the obstacles faced by Americans who must do without. . . Offers important insights into a critical but too often overlooked part of our youth culture." --Kirkus Reviews

"[A] powerful, passionate, and subtle book. . . . [Fine and Weis's] honest and self-reflective account constitutes an inspiring-if sobering-model of scholarship deployed in the interest of social justice." --Michael B. Katz, author of Improving Poor People

"Michelle Fine and Lois Weis enable us to hear the sounds of despair interwoven with hope, with outrage, with new kinds of determination. . . . The Unknown City calls out to its readers for new modes of solidarity, for the kind of theory that may infuse activism." --Maxine Greene, author of Releasing the Imagination

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As advertisers continue refining their product pitches to affluent members of Generation X and demographers struggle to place those young adults in an easily recognizable category, the poor and working class, ages 25-35, are largely ignored and misrepresented. Fine and Weis (coauthors of Beyond Silenced Voices) explore this thesis by interviewing more than 150 men and women, of differing racial backgrounds, in Buffalo, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J. The interview subjects discuss inequality, racism, domestic abuse, religion and police brutality. The authors find a sometimes startling range of opinions, illuminating differences in perception not just among racial and ethnic groups but also between people in the two cities. As the data and interviews show, one of the only things the subjects share is an undercurrent of anger toward Washington as well as toward members of their own groups. Fine and Weis address this hostility while delicately searching for signs of hope, creating a mixture of sociology, oral history and policy study. They use their graphs, figures and tables not only to present evidence of the perceptions of poor young adults but also to back up suggestions for change. What begins as an academic study about social construction becomes a revealing glimpse into the world of those whose only connection to the popular Gen-X label is their birthdate. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious look at those members of Generation X who are too often ignoredþthe poor and working classes. Fine (Social Psychology/CUNY Graduate Center; coauthor with Lani Guinier of Becoming Gentlemen, not reviewed) and Weis (Sociology/SUNY, Buffalo) split their survey sample three ways: by location, race, and gender. The authors conducted dozens of interviews with members of the underclasses of Buffalo, NY, and Jersey City, NJ, cities that have suffered a great loss of industry in the past few generations and therefore endure high levels of poverty and unemployment. Fine and Weis separated their sample into white, Latino, and black subsamples and male and female subsections, taking several chapters to address issues that are specific to each gender/racial group, regardless of the city. They comment that violence is a concern for all, although the type of violence varies from group to group. Females view domestic violence as a primary problem. White men consider neighborhood violenceþparticularly as perpetrated by non-whitesþto be the principal violence they must resist. However, black and Latino men regard systemic state violence (e.g., police brutality) as their foe. Fine and Weis draw few absolute conclusions in their complex work. They are able to generalize that while "race, class and gender are socially constructed," they are also so deeply ingrained in oneþs identity that, for instance, þreaders canþt not know even an `anonymousþ informantþs racial groupþþa conclusion they did not predict. Without preaching, they give readers a sense of the obstacles faced by Americans who must do without. This bleak and oftenpoignant volume offers important insights into a critical but too often overlooked part of our youth culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807041130
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Fine is professor of social psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Lois Weis is a professor at the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York, Buffalo. The research was funded by a major grant from the Spencer Foundation.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Voices of Hope and Despair: Introduction 1
2 Narrating the 1980s and 1990s: Voices of White and African American Men 16
3 Loss of Privilege inside White, Working-Class Masculinity 39
4 "To Stand Up and Be Men": Black Males Rewriting Social Representations 59
5 "It's a Small Frog That Will Never Leave Puerto Rico": Puerto Rican Men and the Struggle for Place in the United States 84
6 Cops, Crime, and Violence 108
7 "I've Slept in Clothes Long Enough": Domestic Violence among Women in the White Working Class 133
8 "Food in Our Stomachs and a Roof Overhead": African American Women Crossing Borders 161
9 Working Without a Net: Poor Mothers Raising Their Families 186
10 Refusing the Betrayal: Latinas Redefining Gender, Sexuality, Family, and Home 206
11 "You Can Never Get Too Much": Reflections on Urban Schooling ... for Grown-Ups and Kids 228
12 Work, the State, and the Body: Re-viewing the Loss and Re-imagining the Future 251
Epilogue: Writing the "Wrongs" of Fieldwork: Confronting Our Own Research/Writing Dilemmas in Urban Ethnographics 264
Appendix 1 289
Appendix 2 292
Appendix 3 298
Notes 305
References 314
Index 329
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