Books by Mitchell Duneier

GHETTO by Mitchell Duneier
Released: April 19, 2016

"Americans did not create the ghetto, but in this well-documented study, we see clearly how those urban areas have come to embody so many of our shortcomings when it comes to matters of race."
How communities—especially in the United States—created, ostracized, and condemned the idea and reality of the ghetto. Read full book review >
SIDEWALK by Mitchell Duneier
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Sociologist Duneier (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison; Slim's Table: Respectability and Masculinity, 1994) constructs a nuanced study of the lives of impoverished street vendors in New York's Greenwich Village. Any day along Sixth Avenue in the Village, rows of tables congest the sidewalk, piled with reading material for sale—from new books to old magazines retrieved from Dumpsters. The sellers are mostly black men; many are homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics. They often engage in "deviant" behavior, such as public urination and engaging unwilling passersby in conversation. Some in the neighborhood accept them as part of the scene, more view them as a threat to the quality of life of the area and a magnet for crime. As a "participant observer" for a number of years, Duneier has tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the actions of these street vendors. They are not an aimless gathering of down-and-outers, but a complex world of norms and self-regulation, of variegated attitudes and self-images. Most view their work—even if it's only panhandling and not selling—as honorable in that they are in fact working, not stealing or robbing. Still they rankle and are often the object of police harassment and government sanctions. Why this is so involves an intricate pas de deux between the street people and residents. Because, for example, they assume with good reason they will not be allowed to use public facilities, the street people urinate in the street. Because the street people urinate in the street, local merchants assume they are not the type of people to be allowed into their establishments. And on and on. Underlying all of this, Duneier argues carefully, is the fear of black men in social spaces. His aim is to have us really begin to see such men. In this, he is ably assisted by the numerous photographs by Pulitzer-winner Ovie Carter illustrating the people, places, and predicaments of which Duneier writes. A work that adds much to our understanding of race, poverty, and our reactions to them. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

Essential black study by a young white sociologist/law student. Feelings abound under the clear surface of Duneier's debut book as he weighs his four years of research on a group of poor, working-class blacks in the Valois ``See Your Food'' Cafeteria on Chicago's South Side—with some whites included. Duneier explodes stereotypes and shows these ghetto men as ``respectable'' while not conforming to middle-class black (or white) stereotypes. Slim, a car mechanic is more or less the respected bachelor master of the table where the diners meet once or twice a day for anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes a meal. We watch Slim as he substitutes an elderly white diner, Bart, as his father figure and cares for him, although Bart still has a southerner's belief in racial superiority and is a tight-lipped recluse. Bart tells a southern visitor that Slim is his friend, but when Bart is hospitalized he cannot bring himself to thank Slim for some candy—he'd rather refuse the gift. The diners form a moral community that transcends roles and images. Duneier is good at building a sense of their masculinity as they disclose personal weaknesses and fail to dominate women or even to coexist with them. Ozzie, a regular, tells of having to give up dating a woman who is too well known on the street, has five children by five different men, likes reefers and coke, and seems a sitting duck for AIDS. The author shoots down many otherwise sensitive landmark black studies of the past half-century for generalizing about working-class blacks, often from essentially middle-class studies and unsatisfactory evidence, thus confirming inaccurate black stereotypes. The media get bashed as well. Fresh fieldwork on innocence and racial stereotyping in the ghetto. Rewires your thinking. (Four halftones by Pulitzer-winning Chicago Tribune photographer Ovie Carter.) Read full book review >