Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deep South - Allison, Burleigh, and Gardner (1941/1969)

Allison, Davis, Burleigh B. Gardner, and Mary R. Gardner. 1969. Deep South : a social anthropological study of caste and class. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

When I studied in South Korea, I am always hungry for recent English books because they are not relatively easy to obtain there. Old books could be accessed in the university library but there I was seeking for new books since I thought their content might be more advanced than the old ones.

However, my views totally changed after I arrived in the U.S. The most recent book (sometime books published in 2011, while I am still living in 2010) can be read, but most of the trials was not always enjoyable. New books are necessary to update relevant literature, and poke at the recent topics and arguments that are under debate. However, the topics new books dealt with are sometimes tedious or sometimes too technical or sometimes sound like tautology (Although not always).

Instead, I recently feel the beauty of old books and the cogency of their accents. Deep South is a sort of beautiful books (Similar approach was preceded by William DuBois’s The Philadelphia Negro in 1899).

The first few chapters start with interviews with white and black informants who live in deep south (termed Old City, and rural places). Most of stories are very tangible and clearly show the relationships between whites and blacks. While some of the terminologies are a little bit awkward from the perspectives of recent days. For example, ‘caste’, one of the main terms in the book, sounds very unfamiliar to recent American residents because the term might not seem to fit with pluralistic and democratic regimes any more. Probably recent sociologists or political scientists (while I am not sure about anthropologists) adopt racial relationship or symbolic racism or racial dominance, rather than caste. However, the strongly accented term might be better to directly point out the social structure that are intermingled with racial caste and economical class with more clarity. Recent terms portraying racial relationships might sound politically correct, but they seem to hold less power to clarify the seriousness of racial problems in the country.

Probably the chapter 7 would be the most widely known chapter to social network analysts. Basically, the authors adopted two-mode network which is comprised of two measures, one is persons, and the other is social events (and their participation). Based on the presence/absence of a person in an event, researchers transform the two-mode network into one-mode one (i.e., two persons can be assumed to be connected, if they simultaneously participated into one same event). However, the evidence does not demand much knowledge over network-related statistics. Anyway, simple statistics clearly support the notion of social cliques that are the bricks of social structure that are hierarchically stratified.

Other chapters provide more participatory observations relating to the social structure of deep south that is divided into (1) white-black, (2) poor-rich, and (3) rural-urban.

While reading the book, two things might be noted because the authors were also influenced by their time. First, black English was all carried with non-standard English, for example, expression of ‘colored’ is written as ‘cullud.’ Even if poor whites’ English were written with grammatically correct form, but wealthy blacks’ English were written as uncorrected form. It reminds me one of readings that showed Japanese English that was written as Native Americans heard. Second, ‘nigger’ was too frequently used. Probably this word MUST be avoided in recent time. Two things might tell readers how much American society changes and be careful when discussing racial issues.

Anyway, it is a readable book that I enjoyed.

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