Monday, June 15, 2015

Conflict Over Sociologist's Narrative Puts Spotlight on Ethnography

The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 12th, 2015
Late last month, what began as a book review in an obscure publication blew up into a major controversy that tarnished sociology’s most-buzzed-about young star. At issue: whether the sociologist, Alice Goffman, had participated in a felony while researching her ethnographic study of young black men caught up in the criminal-justice system.
That claim brought Ms. Goffman back into the news, but the backlash against her had been building for months. Journalists and scholars had acclaimed her 2014 book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, as an ethnographic masterwork, transforming a press-shy junior scholar into a TED-talking celebrity. But discussion of Ms. Goffman’s book soon took on a more cutting tone, as reviewers questioned the accuracy of her portrayal of black life, the soundness of her methods, and the possibility that her book might harm its subjects.

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