Friday, May 14, 2010

Book Review "Sidewalks" -Maya Jourieh

Author and sociologist Mitchell Duneier’s book “Sidewalk” trailed in several themes throughout the book. A common ideology used throughout the book was Jane Jacob’s insight on the urban life around the street vendors of Greenwich Village in New York City. He is a sociologist that spent with the homeless/ “unhoused” book dealers on 6th avenue in New York and discovers an incredibly complex economy and society. Specifically he explores uncovers the dignity of the homeless.
As a sociologist, he spent five years trying to get to know these vendors and understand not only what they do for a living, but how they get by on the streets of New York City everyday. For example, the first vendor he introduced, Hakim, a book vendor, that he got to know through a student of his. While spending time in the streets with this man he is surprised to learn that he is quite well educated and knows what he is talking about, yet lives the way he does. He’s fascinated by the way these venders live their lives. He even based an entire chapter in his book to explain how the unhoused men manage to go to the bathroom (explaining that a bathroom is a luxury, and not always available).
The most interesting point he made in his book was when he tried to make a connection between the vendors lives and their race. He made note in his book “the gaps in American society is the difference between people related to race and the discourse revolving around this volatile issue.” Duneier is a white, middle-class sociologist who infiltrated a stretch of lower Sixth Avenue. He realized the differences of the ways they were raised and lived- for example, he was Jewish and most of the vendors were Muslim or Christian, they all had different levels in education (he held a Ph.D in sociology as well as attended two year of law school, whereas some of them did not graduate from high school), he was a professor and they were vendors. His attempt in trying to connect the vendors backgrounds and current lives made him uneasy.

This book relates to a lot of we have learned in class. I was reminded of our early discussions in the class right away when he quoted what Hakin said had reminded him of Jane Jacobs, “People like me are the eyes and ears of the street.” In that Hakim was referring to not only street vendors, like himself, but people who are of the norm with the street. Another theme in the book that I related to class discussion was when he mentioned the "intereactional vandalism," and when people ignore social cues on purpose. These men do it to women passing by, but it also mentioned that telemarketers do it with their spiel, by preying on the fact that people find it hard to be rude to them while on the job.

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