All our kin ethnography

All our kin ethnography - 1 All Our Kin Throughout Carol...

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1 All Our Kin Throughout Carol Stack’s All Our Kin, she immersed herself in the everyday lifestyle of a typical family in the ghetto. She was not merely an observer but she was an active helper, friend, and participant in everyday routines. She did not gain access to the black community through the typical system, which usually involved contacting priests, teachers, or any black persons who had derived a powerful position in the community. She gained entrance through fortune and patience, and eventually met with a family which in a sense chose her and not the other way around. They chose her because she had no power over them, and in order to gain any knowledge this was the only option she had. Once she met the families she was going to be observing, she quickly learned that in order to fully observe and interpret what she saw, she was going to have to break down any barriers that society had built between her and the community. In the beginning of her fieldwork one of the participants, Magnolia, warned her that Ruby might be hostile to her whiteness and her presence there. Her first duty was to alleviate any hostile nature that the family may have had, and to do this she had to become a very attentive listener and perform duties to prove her loyalty because these two traits are a necessity to gain friendship. The fact that Stack was pregnant at the beginning of the study, allowed for a haste acceptance to become a friend of the family. This was because in the black community babies and mothers played the most important role in the network. This opened the door to a new friendship which looked past the two colors of white and black. Despite all the discrimination the black community receives, they would never force you to leave behind a friend that you trust, even if it was a white person. Stack allowed her child to play with the black kids, to be cared by black families, and to grow with the black children, and “After a few years she was no longer an outsider to the community, but rather she was just one more link in the systems of exchange (Pg. 20).” Her relationship with the family and Ruby is best summed up when Ruby exclaims, “Caroline here is my sister, and nothing’s stopping her from visiting this baby (Pg. 21).” She was no longer an observer, but she was considered part of the family.
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2 Carol Stack wrote this ethnography to “illustrate the collective adaptations to poverty of men, women, and children within the social-cultural network of the urban black family (Pg. 28).” She wanted to inform outsiders how, “ Trading and exchanging goods, resources, and care of children, and the intensity of their acts of domestic cooperation with respect to kin and non-kin, played a vital role in everyday life amongst the families of the Flats (Pg. 28).” She wanted to study how, “Participants in domestic exchanges were defined by one another, what performances and behavior they expected one another, who was eligible to become part of the cooperative networks, how they recruited, and what kept
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This note was uploaded on 05/08/2008 for the course ANT 302 taught by Professor Seriff during the Fall '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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All our kin ethnography - 1 All Our Kin Throughout Carol...

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