Books by Michael Moffatt

Released: April 18, 1989

Moffatt (Anthropology/Rutgers U.) switched his field work from South India to North Jersey and produced this ethnography of the rituals and beliefs of white middle-class college students. Posing as a freshman, Moffatt experienced the disorientation of orientation, then lived in a dorm one night and day each week for a year ill the late 70's and again in the mid-80's. Here, field observation and anonymous surveys yield a picture of the academic experience that is far from that portrayed by Allan Bloom; Moffatt indicates that students learn what they think is pertinent to the lives they'll lead. A central observation is that college culture, rather than being the elite self-contained culture it had been since file 1850's, now derives from the international, mass-media-inspired youth culture of sex, music, and pop icons. (The students' own image of college is rooted more in movies like Animal House than traditions passed down from class to class.) Weighted by the student's own values, the book is concerned more with social life than with academics: after Moffatt's "entry tale," and a chapter describing the shape of modern student life, there follows one on society and changing friendships in a freshman dorm; one concerned with the same in a dorm half black, half white; two chapters on sex (students range from libertines to traditionalists—just like the rest of us); and a final, shorter chapter on "the life of the mind." Flawed by a near-total silence on drugs (Moffatt didn't want to be labeled a narc); still, informative, entertaining, and very readable, a possible campus best-seller. Read full book review >