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King Kong on 4th Street Families and the Violence of Poverty on the Lower East Side

by Jagna Wojcicka Sharff

  • ISBN: 9780813329376
  • ISBN10: 081332937X

King Kong on 4th Street Families and the Violence of Poverty on the Lower East Side

by Jagna Wojcicka Sharff

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins
  • Publish date: 01/01/1998
  • ISBN: 9780813329376
  • ISBN10: 081332937X
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Description: In King Kong on 4th Street, Jagna Sharff chronicles an ethnographic team's involvement over a span of fifteen years with the people of a poor, largely Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City. Anchoring her observations in field notes, she recounts the joys, fears, and disappointments of daily life as well as the drama of large events. Arson, the murder of a popular local teenager, the mobbing of a grocery store as an act of retribution for his death -- all are projected onto a canvas of shifting local and national policies toward poor people and neighborhoods.

Sharff provides new insights into gender and family roles, how adaptations to available resources from the welfare state may shape the membership of households, and how children may be trained for specific adult roles that will advance the family's well-being. She also reveals how the underground economy, particularly the commerce in drugs whose profits are realized outside of the neighborhood, undermines neighborhood-wide solidarity and sends people scrambling against one another for jobs in the quasi-licit and illicit sector.

Following the lives of a number of families into the next generation, Sharff's ethnographic team documents how external political decisions that change the war on poverty into a war on the poor affected them. Paramilitary sweeps of the neighborhood, in tandem with gentrification and declining social services, produce severe dislocations and relocation to homeless shelters, welfare hotels, and prisons. But the reality described is not all grim.

The book's vivid style shows that life is more than grim reality. People get real pleasure from raising children and taking part in the human drama aroundthem. Kinfolk, real and fictive, keep each other afloat and reconnected to new neighborhoods and opportunities, including that of upward mobility through religious conversion. Adults and children achieve satisfaction and a measure of security through grit, wit, and acts of heroism and solidarity.

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