virtual q & a with randol contreras, author of the stick up kids, starting april 6, 2015
Looking for insight into the informal economy, the relationship between a lack of jobs and criminal activity, or ethnographic methods? UToronto sociologist (and CCNY and Graduate Center sociology alum!) Randol Contreras has agreed to do a virtual question and answer session here, at orgtheory, about his book The Stick Up Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream (University of California Press 2013). Read the book (ch. 1 excerpt is available here). Check back with orgtheory to post your questions during the week of April 6!
A blurb about the book:
Randol Contreras came of age in the South Bronx during the 1980s, a time when the community was devastated by cuts in social services, a rise in arson and abandonment, and the rise of crack-cocaine. For this riveting book, he returns to the South Bronx with a sociological eye and provides an unprecedented insider’s look at the workings of a group of Dominican drug robbers. Known on the streets as “Stickup Kids,” these men raided and brutally tortured drug dealers storing large amounts of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and cash.
As a participant observer, Randol Contreras offers both a personal and theoretical account for the rise of the Stickup Kids and their violence. He mainly focuses on the lives of neighborhood friends, who went from being crack dealers to drug robbers once their lucrative crack market opportunities disappeared. The result is a stunning, vivid, on-the-ground ethnographic description of a drug robbery’s violence, the drug market high life, the criminal life course, and the eventual pain and suffering experienced by the casualties of the Crack Era.
Provocative and eye-opening, The Stickup Kids urges us to explore the ravages of the drug trade through weaving history, biography, social structure, and drug market forces. It offers a revelatory explanation for drug market violence by masterfully uncovering the hidden social forces that produce violent and self-destructive individuals. Part memoir, part penetrating analysis, this book is engaging, personal, deeply informed, and entirely absorbing.
Some quotes about the book:
“The Stickup Kids is an extraordinary work of brilliance—complex critical theory woven fluidly through a gripping narrative of intimate personal experience. Contreras is a genuine, organic intellectual a la Gramsci. His is a brand new voice that challenges elitist ways of doing fieldwork and analyzing theory in academia. Rich and honest, this work deserves to be a classic ethnography of U.S. inner-city suffering.”—Philippe Bourgois, author of Righteous Dopefiend
“In The Stickup Kids, we witness the trickery and tactics of robbing drug dealers,torturing them to reveal their money stash, and the talk and emotions by which all this is normalized. Contreras gets us closer to the lifeworld of violent professional criminals than any previous researcher.”—Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania
“Contreras is that rare breed of ethnographer who studies race, poverty and crime from the ground up and from the inside out while avoiding the traps of moralism and paying due attention to structural forces. His carnal dissection of the double marginality and built-in liminality of drug robbers in the South Bronx offers a dense, penetrating, and poignant acccount of the murky intersections of street violence, economic destitution, ethnoracial anguish, and masculine hubris. The Stickup Kids is a book to ruminate and emulate.”—Loïc Wacquant, author of Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer and Urban Outcasts