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
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).”
was no longer an observer, but she was considered part of the family.