Analysis of Elijah Anderson’s Ethnography Essay

Analysis of Elijah Anderson’s Ethnography Essay.

Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street takes an in-depth look into the world of crime based upon the conditions in which people find themselves, like poverty, unemployment, and drug use, and illustrates that the behaviors are definable under a “code of the street,” in which even people who strive to get good jobs and move into better homes fall victim to their situations. It is the code itself that is responsible, leading people to less desirable situations and behaviors.

To fully understand the code of the street, a look will be taken into the John Turner case study which will demonstrate how informal social control, or the circumstances of a youth’s environment, only serves to perpetuate violence and self-destruction.

Before writing his book, Elijah Anderson wrote for The Atlantic Monthly magazine, positing his theory for his peers. His project began with the desperation brought on by attempting to understand the driving force behind the rampant violence among, specifically, young African-American men.

He cites that the “inclination to violence springs from the circumstances of life among the ghetto poor—the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, the stigma of race, the fallout from rampant drug use and drug trafficking, and the resulting alienation and lack of hope for the future . ” This thesis, nearly exactly that of the focus for his book, illustrates his belief that people are bound by their circumstances, and, despite their drive for success, Anderson believes that such circumstances make it nearly impossible, if not entirely so, for people to improve their lives and progress out of the ghetto.

Moreover, “simply living in such an environment places young people at special risk of falling victim to aggressive behavior…above all, this environment means that even youngsters whose home lives reflect mainstream values—and the majority of homes in the community do—must be able to handle themselves in a street- oriented environment . ” Anderson is making the assumption that the environment in which a youth is brought up, especially an African-American black male, will determine how they perceive and interact with life.

Mostly, this means that because the circumstances are bad and violent in the ghetto, so too, will be the attitude and interactions of the young black male. Indeed, if they can’t handle themselves in a violent and powerful manner, they will be a failure; they will not be the man that they believe they need to be, and simply, they will not survive. Anderson comes to the theory that the code of the streets comes down to one essential issue: that of respect. He writes that “at the heart of the code is the issue of respect—loosely defined as being treated ‘right,’ or granted the deference one deserves.

However, in the troublesome public environment of the inner city, as people increasingly feel buffeted by forces beyond their control, what one deserves in the way of respect becomes more and more problematic and uncertain . ” Undeniably, and the rising crime rates can attest to this, something is driving up the violence in urban cities. Thus, it can certainly be said that with the need to compete with one’s environment, young black males are taking greater strides in their acts of violence, simply to survive.

But it is the never-ending cycle as this environment “further opens the issue of respect to sometimes intense interpersonal negotiation. In the street culture, especially among young people, respect is viewed as almost an external entity that is hard-won but easily lost, and so must constantly be guarded . ” Respect, especially in a gang-type environment, is the means in which young men find their worth, and it must be fought for at all costs. Violence is, essentially, the easiest way to respect, and thus, their environment has led them to continue the pattern of violence.

But, it’s a vicious circle. To have respect, one must be willing to take the appropriate actions, usually violent and terrible ones, and that furthers the crime rate. But, without respect, a young black male does not, according to Anderson, at least, have value in his life, and that too will drive him to violence, acting out against his unfair circumstances. With his article written and published, Anderson eventually gathered enough research and ethnography to publish his book, Code of the Streets.

In his book, one case in particular stands out; that of John Turner. Anderson personally met with John Turner, who, he writes, “had a mental image of the upstanding man and father figure he often longed for and even wished to be. His attempts to enact the role were continually compromised, however, by the lack of an effective [role] model, but also by the unrelenting pull of the street . ” Anderson’s image of Turner was that of the effected youth, brought to violence and trouble by his circumstances alone.

Anderson writes that John Turner was an African-American who worked in a local diner. One day, Turner came directly up to Anderson, and in desperation, asked for help. As the story unfolds, Anderson discovered that Turner was a twenty-one year old football star, high school graduate, with four children (two more arrived by the time Anderson wrote his book), and is proud of his circumstances—being a virile manly-man for his procreation success. He still lived at home with his parents and was in so much trouble with the law that he was considering running away.

Anderson writes that “John understood the code of the street very well…he had made a name for himself running his own neighborhood with the help of his own boys…as proof of his gang activities, he proudly showed [off his numerous and terrible scars]…all of them indicating incidents of street violence to which he had been a willing or unwilling party . ” Indeed, Turner’s life was one of intense crime and violence, and he seemed proud to have been party to it—telling his tales with the air of self-importance for his actions.

But then things turned ugly for Turner, as he was caught with an unregistered pistol and arrested. As the proceedings went, Turner felt wronged by his public defender and the judge, insisting that his dealings with the law were unfair. Of course, Turner gets fired from work and eventually gets a new job where he also feels the victim, telling Anderson that his coworkers treated him in a prejudiced manner. Turner later explains that he is a man and doesn’t mind going to jail, but he fears that his family won’t be able to make ends meet.

At the end of the story, Anderson contacts an attorney for Turner and while waiting for the court proceedings to begin, Anderson began to feel as if the attorney his friend sent over already held a prejudice against Turner. But Anderson fully believed that Turner was “a confused young black man in trouble, whose circumstances were complicated by his ignorance, by his limited finances, by who he was, and by the implications [of his current trouble] . ” Then, the judge gives Turner a monthly fine of $100 and a new probation officer.

Eventually, Anderson even gets Turner a new job, but when Turner is expected to go to work, the news comes that he is in jail for beating up his girlfriend. He is ultimately let out and attends work, and is a good employee until the news drops that he hasn’t paid his court fine and is again sent to jail. Anderson reflects that “people like John –low income, urban black males in trouble—generally have very low status in the minds of those staffing the system . ” But their relationship begins to deteriorate when Turner begins to ask for money, asking for a new job, and coming to Anderson’s home with different girlfriends.

Anderson eventually finds himself frustrated with being Turner’s constant caregiver and their relationship is ended. Even so, Anderson “did not lose hope for John Turner…nor would he tolerate placing all responsibility for their problems on the youth themselves . ” Moreover, John’s interactions with the world could be seen as arrogant behavior and “his proclivity to violence in reaction to shaming or being dismissed, however ultimately pathological, remains in his world also normative and sustaining .

” While some blame must be placed upon Turner for his actions, so too, can blame be placed upon his situations. Ultimately, however, there must be some turning point with any youth—an understanding of right from wrong. Being brought up with violence does not make it a normal part of life and it certainly does not make it rationale behavior to any situation—despite what Anderson seems to believe. Essentially, with the John Turner case, Anderson went into it with the assumption that Turner was a man tormented by his circumstance, and no matter what came his way, he was always treated unfairly and with prejudice.

Anderson knew that the “code of the streets” was strong, especially in African-American men, and that made it even more difficult for a man like Turner to make anything of himself except that which society expected of him. Anderson found, however, that it may not be simple circumstance that holds a man back from success—and while he finds it against his thesis to illustrate fully, he does mark this point when he ends his relationship with Turner. Anderson insinuates “that ‘street’ and ‘decent’ values are in tension within a neighborhood.

Moreover, those who work in or study inner-city communities know that this tension can exist within the same individual . ” Basically, a youth can know right from wrong but feel torn between his choices based upon the circumstances set in his path. With all of his research, Anderson maintains that “a vicious cycle has thus been formed. The hopelessness and alienation many young inner-city black men and women feel, largely as a result of endemic joblessness and persistent racism, fuels the violence they engage in .

” Because of their circumstances, they are practically forced to feel helplessness for themselves and their situations—and this, Anderson believes, is what incites further violence. And it is this violence that “serves to confirm the negative feelings many whites and some middle-class blacks harbor toward the ghetto poor, further legitimating the oppositional culture and the code of the streets in the eyes of many poor young blacks.

Unless this cycle is broken, attitudes on both sides will become increasingly entrenched, and the violence, which claims victims black and white, poor and affluent, will only escalate . ” But, in acknowledging this circle, Anderson almost brings more credence to it. Indeed, racism has been a battle fought for more years than can be counted in American history, however, there must come a time when the past is forgotten, or forgiven, and people can move on. Perhaps it will always exist, but the ideal that it exists because it has to is just as wrong as expressing racism in the first place.

What Anderson has failed to understand is that the cycle cannot be broken until people decide it will be. People must decide for themselves that violence is not the answer, that violence does not breed respect, and that violence is not the only method for survival. It doesn’t matter who they are, or what color their skin, or even where they live—only that, as human beings, they have the option to make the choice between right and wrong. Only then can this code of the streets be broken.

Overall, Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street represents a new ideal that the young African-American male is, essentially, going to fall into trouble and violence because that is what his circumstances offer. There is no chance to rise from his situations because he will always be treated unfairly and will always have setbacks. In looking at how informal social control, or the conditions of an environment, affect the reactions of John Turner, Anderson discovers that Turner is, ultimately, a man of circumstance.

While Anderson maintains that it isn’t Turner’s fault that he finds himself in serious trouble over and over again, it can be said that Anderson came to his own silent truth that there might be something to say about a youth’s ability to choose between right and wrong—despite his circumstances. And while Anderson never literally makes this presumption, a reader is led to understand that there is a tension between young African-American youths that drives them, inexplicably, to violence, and makes them unable to make the right choices because they are never given the chance.


Anderson, Elijah. (2000). Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Anderson, Elijah. (1994). The Code of the Streets. The Atlantic Monthly, Vol 273 (5), 80+. Dykstra, Robert. (1997). Counseling Troubled Youth. London: Westminster John Knox Press. Forman, James. (2004). Community Policing and Youth as Assets. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol 95 (1), 1+.

Analysis of Elijah Anderson’s Ethnography Essay

Reviewing Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection Essay

Reviewing Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection Essay.

Starting with a critical outline of the global patterns and designs in communication, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s seminal work Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection attempts at a critical examination of the widespread principle of worldwide associations lingering almost everywhere. While Tsing explicates that her work “is not a history of philosophy but rather an ethnography of global connection (Tsing, 2004, p. 1)”, she also unravels a tight regard for the seemingly presented connections among the various sections of the society. Apparently, one of the book’s main concerns is to obtain the movement patterns wherein various types of knowledge and culture collide against or with each other.

This, perhaps, is the logical and obvious contention behind the book.

            The initial section of Friction probes into the notion of ‘richness’ or prosperity through an examination of the numerous sides of capitalism. The first part also seeks an exploration of the events that lead to capitalism and its corresponding effects from a bigger viewpoint.

While putting down into understanding the significant concepts needed to have a better comprehension of the foundations and modern expressions of capitalism, the first part also brings into light quite a few matters surrounding the delicate and complicated ties from all over the globe. This section introduces the part where the Tsing will subsequently interlock the discussion about the worldwide political environment which encompasses the Indonesian society including the local communities.

            Tsing’s seminal work also makes the plain observation that the population increase or boom has equally led to a rapid disproportion in the environment as resources would then have to be consumed or used in a larger scale or degree. Because capitalism is one of the book’s primary concerns, it attempts to showcase the definitive function of capitalism in this imbalance which is largely amplified by the increase in population in the modern years.

Tsing further observes that proliferation is also a crucial principle that indicates the expansion or spread of capitalism (Tsing, 2004, p. 27). This results to the presumption that the population expansion—with the combination of capitalist expansion—is a measure of proliferation. In return, the proliferation generates the setting of frontiers which are not mere edges but more importantly specific forms of edges “where the expansive nature of extraction comes into its own (Tsing, 2004, p. 27).”

            Generally, the opening parts of the book, including the first chapter, are initially segmented into two sections: the first section deals with the concept of frontier and the resources which consist it founded on the ethnographic observations during the middle parts of the 1990s; the second section probes the consequences of the predicaments during 1997 when “frontier-making spiraled out of control (Tsing, 2004, p. 28).”

            The second main section of Friction explores the concept of Natural Universals with respect to the various contexts in the whole world. Friction inevitably draws the parallels between universality of a supreme being which is God and the universality of nature through the environment for generating the link between Nature and God. While the chapter probes into the “universality of capital-N Nature” which is the “awe-inspiring, lawlike systematicity of the cosmos of and of life on earth” (Tsing, 2004, p. 88), the book also inevitably draws the essential link between Nature and the rest of the world.

            Friction also notes the presumption that generalizations are where “small details support great visions and the universal is discovered in particularities (Tsing, 2004, p. 89)”. This presupposes the notion that “generalization to the universal requires a large space of compatibility among disparate particular facts and observations (Tsing, 2004, p. 89).” It also translates into the idea that “tentative and contingent collaborations” among incongruent seekers of knowledge as well as their incongruent “forms of knowledge” can create compatible facts and observations from incongruent ones (Tsing, 2004, p. 89).

These observations discussed in the book brings us face to face with the core of what the author is presupposing: the idea that mere generalizations are just as they are without getting hold of the particulars that comprise them. If put altogether like a single unit, these very particularities will compose the bigger picture where the rest of Nature and of the world function as a unified force.

The second chapter further tries to ascertain the supposition that one can start to take action on the idea of ‘thinking globally’ through the awareness of a present generalization among things. That is, the realization of the commonality among the various elements and entities in the world through their predominant generalities helps us overcome the barriers that hinder us from thinking on a large scale and attain the end of global connections.

            The author steadfastly formulates this position by affirming that “as long as facts are apples and oranges, one cannot generalize across them; one must first see them as ‘fruit’ to make general claims (Tsing, 2004, p. 89).” This makes the book even more mind rousing as it nears its middle part. As Friction exposes certain critical observations such as the inability or failure of individuals to realize the common general thread which holds people together as one, it also brings into consciousness the possible means of surmounting the test of realizing the more general claims.

            In addition, Friction reiterates the idea that “cultural analysis thrives on the description of specificity” given that it is the paramount scheme for us to get hold of “a critical distance from the common-sense platitudes and everyday assumptions of our lives” and “the powerful ideologies that keep us in their thrall” (Tsing, 2004, p. 122). Friction reasserts the position that omitting the comprehension about the particulars disarms one with the capacity to approach and comprehend the more evident actuality in the rear of our common-sense perception of the globe.

            “Nature Loving” further makes manifest as well as supports the belief that the assorted interactions concerning different categories of knowledge and culture are unyielding factors in investigating universal claims. Using the Indonesian rainforest as an example, the book reiterates the belief that people have always been in contact with nature. One example to this is the fact that there are ‘nature lovers’ who are “devoted to outdoor activities such as camping, mountain climbing, rafting, and scuba diving (Tsing, 2004, p. 122)”. These individuals merely consist of a little fraction of the bigger populace whose daily lives involve contact with Nature such as the Indonesians.

            Friction penetrates deep into the analysis by putting side by side the observations of the poet Kristiandi Tanumihardja with the observations of individuals from the scientific community to the masses. The cornerstone of these observations from the book relates the idea that nature has its own way of communication which is evidently unique in its own mysterious ways. As Friction talks about the human endeavors to disclose the mysteries behind the way Nature communicates not only by the scientific community but also by the world of literature, it also hopes that “even with such limited understanding” the attempts “might bring us closer to knowing how to live in a multispecies world” (Tsing, 2004, p. 172).

Friction further concretizes an observation in the chapter “A History of Weediness” where the author explores “the interdependence of species” by reflecting on “the beasts and flowers, not just as symbols and resources, but as co-residents and collaborators” (Tsing, 2004, p. 172). This corresponds to the presumption that there should be ‘respect’ in the manner which human beings deal with the environment. The book reveals the outlines upon which the societies have significantly transformed—and, to a certain extent, revolutionized—across generations which largely contributed to the major changes in Nature.

More importantly, Friction tries to reveal the assessment that Nature and the cultural processes have been normally delegated with various disjunctions and differences as well as with the heterogeneous factors which intertwine along the way—it is the part in which people ordinarily refer to as the concept of ‘globalization’.

            The final chapter “Freedom” in Friction commences with the belief that “travel changes the way we imagine our home places (Tsing, 2004, p. 213)” which leads us towards the idea that ‘movement’ should be present for us to acquire a consistent and unyielding comprehension and appreciation of Nature and the global environment. It is only through this movement can a broader understanding of the global connections existing take place. More importantly, these movements are paramount or equivalent to the different social movements and upheavals in more recent times. These include the various social movements among the community of civilians consistently engaging with the environment.

            Friction’s final chapter further broadens the kinds of collaborations where “political gains and compromises” can be assessed “through constant attention to these kinds of collaborations and their effects” (Tsing, 2004, p. 268). While aggregating the general contentions of Friction in studying global interconnections and the many particularities involved in comprising the larger whole, the book also places a special emphasis on Indonesia’s environmental status. Friction reports facts about the principal subject matters in investigating the ethnography of global connections and the findings by earlier generations as well as the contemporary ones which ascertain what people comprehend as signs of globalization.


Indonesia: Environmental Issues. (2004).   Retrieved November 2, 2007, from

Tsing, A. L. (2004). Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Yarrow, T. (2006). Book Review: riction: An Ethnography of Global Connection By Anna Lowenhaupt   Tsing. Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 29(2), 291-296.

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Reviewing Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection Essay

Ethnographic Essay Essay

Ethnographic Essay Essay.

The ethnography I chose to do my reaction paper was called ‘Anxious Pleasures: The Sexual Lives of an Amazonian People’ written by Thomas Gregor. This ethnography is about Thomas Gregor and his wife’s visit to the Mehinaku Village in 1967. Gregor was a graduate student of anthropology and decided to take a field trip there to further his studies and better understand the Amazonian people. I could only read a select few pages from this ethnography so it was a little tricky to put down my reaction of it in writing.

Becoming aware of how other people around the world think about or view sexual activity was very interesting, although there were definitely a few things that surprised me about their culture and how they view sex.

Thomas Gregor did not initially go there to study the sexuality of the Mehinaku but he thought in order to get the full understanding of their culture it was pretty vital to do. The Mehinaku are very open about sex.

They have little embarrassment of their sexual desire and even their children will recall the names of their parents’ many lovers. In my opinion I found that a little too much for a child to know, even though it is how they have been brought up their whole lives and that is the way their culture is. At same time I would like to try not to be so ethnocentric and judge them by how they do certain things, but some of the things they do are honestly quite shocking and makes it harder to understand.

I found it interesting when I learned that a new father is put under certain restrictions for his son and if he eats forbidden foods or participates in sexual relations it will violate the prohibition and his child will become sick. They have the village shaman come in and help cure the child by sucking out the disease that has somehow made its way into the child all caused by the father’s carelessness. This was fascinating to me because we Americans would not think that eating a “forbidden food” or having sex would actually cause a child to fall ill, it just seems a little superstitious in my opinion. Another part of this book I came across that caught my attention was that the boys of the village who are around seven or eight years old are taken from their mothers for “initiation” where they are told some pretty disturbing things.

For example, the young boys are told that semen is the basis of life and growth and in order to develop into men they must consume semen by partaking in oral sex with the older boys. Basically the children do not want anything to do with that so they are then forced into oral intercourse with other younger boys, and after being forced to do this for so long they end up enjoying it and continue to do it with more and more boys so that they can rapidly grow into manly warriors.

This is appalling to me because for one the children are still so young and it makes me think that as these children get older they would become very confused with their sexual orientation. Even though I still have a pretty ethnocentric view of all of this and think some of it is quite disturbing it still interests me and I still enjoy learning about different cultures and how much they vary all around the world. I am sure that if the Mehinaku were to come to America and see the way we do certain things here they would be pretty shocked as well. As I continue to learn more about different cultures across the globe I hope to become much less ethnocentric and more understanding.

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Ethnographic Essay Essay