Alice Goffman's On The Run: The Interpretation Of Cultures

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In 1973, Clifford Geertz- an American anthropologist- authored The Interpretation of Cultures, in which he defines culture as a context that behaviors and processes can be described from. His work, particularly this one, has come to be fundamental in the anthropological field, especially for symbolic anthropology-study of the role of symbols in a society- and an understanding of “thick description”-human behavior described such that it has meaning to an outsider of the community it originated. Alice Goffman is an American sociologist and ethnographer widely-known for her work, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City (2015). In this work, she relays how for her undergraduate and doctoral research project, she immersed herself in a predominately African-American community of Philadelphia as a white, privileged woman. Goffman goes on the explain how the frequent policing and incarceration of young, black men from this neighborhood affects the entire community and even affected Goffman herself. The underlying principle of The Interpretation of Cultures is that anthropology is a descriptive science…show more content…
It started with her working at her college’s cafeteria, then to tutoring her supervisor’s relatives, and finally to befriending a man named Mike. Through these connections, she was slowly accepted into the community, which is essential for her research as trust causes people to open up about more than they usually would. Over time, Mike and his friends would discuss crime and violence in her presence and she would often witness the effect of policing and incarceration on community members. However, there is a lot of criticism surrounding Goffman’s stories and claims, which raises the question of how credible research methods such as hers can

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