344 American Sociological Review Essay Assignment
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344 American Sociological Review Essay Assignment
2 Fordham and Ogbu (1986) are often interpreted as arguing that academic success itself comes to be defined as acting white within an oppositional cul- ture, but in a recent article, Ogbu (2004) clarifies that their argument was that behaviors that lead to aca- demic achievement are what are defined as acting white by poor black adolescents.
3 There are undoubtedly cultural dimensions on which middle-class neighborhoods have comparable or greater cultural heterogeneity than do poor neigh- borhoods, such as political views, fashion prefer- ences, or religious beliefs. The focus of this article is on cultural dimensions related to individual out- comes typically studied by poverty and inequality researchers, such as sexual behavior.
of these. Local cultures can add to or substitute for items in the mainstream cultural repertoire and, thus, provide adaptations and reactions to a given structural situation. Like Liebow (1967) and Anderson (1978), Hannerz sees local cul- ture as helping individuals come to terms with contradictions between the wider society’s cul- ture and the individual’s position in the social structure. Yet, Hannerz makes it clear that “ghet- to culture” is not a monolithic entity but rather a heterogeneous mix of fluid ideal-type lifestyle groups (“mainstreamers,” “swingers,” “street families,” and “street corner men”). In ghetto neighborhoods, members of these groups live in close physical proximity, which often leads them to construct exaggerated social hierar- chies and distinctions (see also Newman 1992). Countering the divisive moral judgments between lifestyle groups, however, are the fam- ily ties and spatial proximity that pull individ- uals with divergent lifestyles into regular contact and confrontation.
Consistent with the points above, some recent research has demonstrated that within disad- vantaged neighborhoods, there are multiple cul- tural models available.4 For example, Newman (1999) shows that even in neighborhoods with high levels of joblessness, the majority of peo- ple pursue activities consistent with mainstream ideologies, such as working or going to school. Anderson (1999) documents the presence of both “street” and “decent” orientations among those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Though they are in the numerical minority, those with a “street” orientation dominate pub- lic space and public life in inner-city neighbor- hoods.
The concept of cultural heterogeneity is also broadly consistent with classic research tradi- tions within the study of social stratification focusing on class inequality. Parkin (1971), in his analysis of the normative order of the work-
ing class, describes this order as composed of a number of competing meaning systems—the dominant, subordinate, and radical—each pro- viding a different model of class stratification. The result is a state of “normative ambivalence,” in which the working class draws from a “reser- voir of meaning” that is fed by these three dif- ferent “streams.” Rodman (1963) develops the concept of the “lower-class value stretch” to explain how the lower classes can have a some- what distinctive value system that is still derived from the dominant value system.
In sum, prior research suggests that the cul- tural context of disadvantaged communities can be thought of as derived from mainstream cul- ture but modified or reinterpreted to serve local needs and in response to blocked opportuni- ties. Most analysts recognize the presence of multiple competing lifestyle groups (to use Hannerz’s terminology) or orientations (to use Anderson’s) within urban neighborhoods. Culture within poor neighborhoods is not a sin- gle entity but rather a heterogeneous mix of lifestyles or orientations that individuals move between or draw upon as necessary. Such a con- ception is far from consistent with the view of poor inner-city neighborhoods as places of cul- tural isolation from middle-class culture and institutions.
However, analyses of the role of culture in explaining behavior in poor neighborhoods still largely rest on social isolation models. These analyses tend to identify subcultures that pro- mote or justify particular behaviors as expla- nations for those behaviors. For example, Anderson (1999) explains adolescent sexuality, gender relations, and teenage pregnancy in dis- advantaged neighborhoods with the develop- ment of a subculture in which early sexual activity and early parenthood are normative. The coexistence of these two incompatible mod- els (one that describes poor neighborhoods as containing a mix of nondiscrete cultural groups and another that relies on cultural subgroup explanations of behavior) creates an analytical conundrum: If individuals draw from multiple cultural lifestyle models, how can subcultures hold such sway over behavior, action, or deci- sion making? I propose that recent efforts to incorporate new cultural concepts such as frames, scripts, or repertoires into theorizing about culture in urban neighborhoods provide an important theoretical bridge toward better
NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURAL CONTEXT—–345
4 I follow Quinn and Holland (1987) in my use of the term “cultural models,” which they define as, “presupposed, taken-for-granted models of the world that are widely shared (although not necessarily to the exclusion of other, alternative models) by the mem- bers of a society and that play an enormous role in their understanding of that world and their behavior in it” (p. 4). I consider frames and scripts to be two types of cultural models.
understanding the relationship between culture and behavior among adolescents in disadvan- taged neighborhoods.
CONCEPTUALIZING CULTURAL HETEROGENEITY
In any social context, from the perspective of any individual, there are multiple cultural mod- els available from which to choose (Fuller et al. 1996; Holloway et al. 1997; Quinn and Holland 1987; Swidler 1986). These models may be overlapping or contradictory, and they reflect ideas about how the world works, what appro- priate goals are, and how to go about accom- plishing things.5 To further unpack these issues, I rely on three concepts: culture as repertoire or tool kit (Hannerz 1969; Swidler 1986, 2001), culture as frame (Benford and Snow 2000; Goffman 1974; Small 2004), and culture as script.
Swidler (1986, 2001) draws upon the concept of cultural repertoire to develop a general con- ception of culture that allows it to play a causal role in influencing action.6 She sees culture as a “tool kit” of symbols, stories, and worldviews that people use to solve different problems. Under this model, culture is not a unified sys- tem but a repertoire from which to draw. Culture provides the components used to construct “strategies of action” or “persistent ways of ordering action through time” and can thereby have a causal role. The elements that make up one’s tool kit come not just from direct experi- ence or social interaction but also from the wider culture through institutions such as the media, schooling, and religion. The ability of culture to predict behavior in the tool kit model comes from variation in repertoires across cul- tural groups or across individuals.7
In the analysis below, I measure two types of cultural objects that may be present in an indi- vidual’s or group’s cultural repertoire: frames and scripts. Frames are ways of understanding “how the world works” (Young 2004). They encode expectations about consequences of behavior and how various parts of the social world relate or do not relate to one another. A frame is a lens through which one interprets events, and it therefore impacts how one reacts.
Benford and Snow (2000) emphasize that frames are collectively constructed, often unin- tentionally but sometimes intentionally. Frames identify problems and assign blame, provide solutions or strategies, and provide a rationale for engaging in action. Like repertoires, frames allow for cultural heterogeneity. Individuals can have multiple contradictory or competing frames that they deploy in different situations, and frames may have various levels of speci- ficity. Small (2004) shows that individuals in the same neighborhood can and often do employ distinct frames. He shows that frames are not fixed, as young people’s neighborhood frames change through interaction with neighborhood activists of an earlier generation.
Scripts provide cultural templates for the sequencing of behaviors or actions over time. They are akin to Swidler’s “strategies of action” in that they show how to solve problems or achieve goals. There need not be consistency across various scripts or frames, as individuals are often able to live with many contradictions and inconsistencies. Therefore, one should not think of frames and scripts as necessarily hier- archically nested. Instead, individuals or groups may possess or employ multiple contradictory frames and scripts. People of a common culture do not share a coherent, monolithic culture, but rather a set of available frames and scripts, objective structural conditions, and knowledge of what others do and think. Sewell (1999) char-
346—–AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW
5 A conception of culture as heterogeneous and contradictory appears elsewhere as well. For exam- ple, Sewell notes that “social actors are capable of applying a wide range of different and even incom- patible schemes” (1992:17). He also describes cul- tures as contradictory, loosely integrated, contested, subject to constant change, and weakly bounded (Sewell 1999).
6 Tilly (1978) is also credited with the development of the concept of repertoire in his work on “repertoires of collective action.”
344 American Sociological Review Essay Assignment
QUALITY OF RESPONSE NO RESPONSE POOR / UNSATISFACTORY SATISFACTORY GOOD EXCELLENT Content (worth a maximum of 50% of the total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 20 points out of 50: The essay illustrates poor understanding of the relevant material by failing to address or incorrectly addressing the relevant content; failing to identify or inaccurately explaining/defining key concepts/ideas; ignoring or incorrectly explaining key points/claims and the reasoning behind them; and/or incorrectly or inappropriately using terminology; and elements of the response are lacking. 30 points out of 50: The essay illustrates a rudimentary understanding of the relevant material by mentioning but not full explaining the relevant content; identifying some of the key concepts/ideas though failing to fully or accurately explain many of them; using terminology, though sometimes inaccurately or inappropriately; and/or incorporating some key claims/points but failing to explain the reasoning behind them or doing so inaccurately. Elements of the required response may also be lacking. 40 points out of 50: The essay illustrates solid understanding of the relevant material by correctly addressing most of the relevant content; identifying and explaining most of the key concepts/ideas; using correct terminology; explaining the reasoning behind most of the key points/claims; and/or where necessary or useful, substantiating some points with accurate examples. The answer is complete. 50 points: The essay illustrates exemplary understanding of the relevant material by thoroughly and correctly addressing the relevant content; identifying and explaining all of the key concepts/ideas; using correct terminology explaining the reasoning behind key points/claims and substantiating, as necessary/useful, points with several accurate and illuminating examples. No aspects of the required answer are missing. Use of Sources (worth a maximum of 20% of the total points). Zero points: Student failed to include citations and/or references. Or the student failed to submit a final paper. 5 out 20 points: Sources are seldom cited to support statements and/or format of citations are not recognizable as APA 6th Edition format. There are major errors in the formation of the references and citations. And/or there is a major reliance on highly questionable. The Student fails to provide an adequate synthesis of research collected for the paper. 10 out 20 points: References to scholarly sources are occasionally given; many statements seem unsubstantiated. Frequent errors in APA 6th Edition format, leaving the reader confused about the source of the information. There are significant errors of the formation in the references and citations. And/or there is a significant use of highly questionable sources. 15 out 20 points: Credible Scholarly sources are used effectively support claims and are, for the most part, clear and fairly represented. APA 6th Edition is used with only a few minor errors. There are minor errors in reference and/or citations. And/or there is some use of questionable sources. 20 points: Credible scholarly sources are used to give compelling evidence to support claims and are clearly and fairly represented. APA 6th Edition format is used accurately and consistently. The student uses above the maximum required references in the development of the assignment. 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Structure of the Paper (worth 10% of total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 3 points out of 10: Student needs to develop better formatting skills. The paper omits significant structural elements required for and APA 6th edition paper. Formatting of the paper has major flaws. The paper does not conform to APA 6th edition requirements whatsoever. 5 points out of 10: Appearance of final paper demonstrates the student’s limited ability to format the paper. There are significant errors in formatting and/or the total omission of major components of an APA 6th edition paper. They can include the omission of the cover page, abstract, and page numbers. Additionally the page has major formatting issues with spacing or paragraph formation. Font size might not conform to size requirements. The student also significantly writes too large or too short of and paper 7 points out of 10: Research paper presents an above-average use of formatting skills. The paper has slight errors within the paper. This can include small errors or omissions with the cover page, abstract, page number, and headers. There could be also slight formatting issues with the document spacing or the font Additionally the paper might slightly exceed or undershoot the specific number of required written pages for the assignment. 10 points: Student provides a high-caliber, formatted paper. This includes an APA 6th edition cover page, abstract, page number, headers and is double spaced in 12’ Times Roman Font. Additionally, the paper conforms to the specific number of required written pages and neither goes over or under the specified length of the paper.
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344 American Sociological Review Essay Assignment