No Way Out: Precarious Living In The Shadow Of Poverty And Drug Dealing

Paperback | September 19, 2015

byWaverly Duck

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In 2005 Waverly Duck was called to a town he calls Bristol Hill to serve as an expert witness in the sentencing of drug dealer Jonathan Wilson. Convicted as an accessory to the murder of a federal witness and that of a fellow drug dealer, Jonathan faced the death penalty, and Duck was there to provide evidence that the environment in which Jonathan had grown up mitigated the seriousness of his alleged crimes. Duck’s exploration led him to Jonathan’s church, his elementary, middle, and high schools, the juvenile facility where he had previously been incarcerated, his family and friends, other drug dealers, and residents who knew him or knew of him. After extensive ethnographic observations, Duck found himself seriously troubled and uncertain: Are Jonathan and others like him a danger to society? Or is it the converse—is society a danger to them?

Duck’s short stay in Bristol Hill quickly transformed into a long-term study—one that forms the core of No Way Out. This landmark book challenges the common misconception of urban ghettoes as chaotic places where drug dealing, street crime, and random violence make daily life dangerous for their residents. Through close observations of daily life in these neighborhoods, Duck shows how the prevailing social order ensures that residents can go about their lives in relative safety, despite the risks that are embedded in living amid the drug trade. In a neighborhood plagued by failing schools, chronic unemployment, punitive law enforcement, and high rates of incarceration, residents are knit together by long-term ties of kinship and friendship, and they base their actions on a profound sense of community fairness and accountability. Duck presents powerful case studies of individuals whose difficulties flow not from their values, or a lack thereof, but rather from the multiple obstacles they encounter on a daily basis.

No Way Out explores how ordinary people make sense of their lives within severe constraints and how they choose among unrewarding prospects, rather than freely acting upon their own values. What emerges is an important and revelatory new perspective on the culture of the urban poor.

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From the Publisher

In 2005 Waverly Duck was called to a town he calls Bristol Hill to serve as an expert witness in the sentencing of drug dealer Jonathan Wilson. Convicted as an accessory to the murder of a federal witness and that of a fellow drug dealer, Jonathan faced the death penalty, and Duck was there to provide evidence that the environment in w...

Waverly Duck is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:September 19, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629806X

ISBN - 13:9780226298061

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“With skill, sagacity, and sensitivity, Duck delves beneath the hype that dominates perceptions of neighborhoods with street-based drug markets and sheds new light on the residents of one such area with evocative depth and complexity. Through this lucid portrait of daily life forged under the unfathomably harsh conditions of poverty in America, we come to understand the individual and collective strategies people develop to bear the unbearable by creating a sense of order and community. Yet resilience and fortitude cannot conquer the powerful societal forces that keep generation after generation confined to these oppressive territories. No Way Out is a haunting, thought-provoking read that lingers long after we turn the final page.”