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Inquiries into Ghetto Culture and Community

For an outsider, the prospect of blending into the fabric of an urban African American ghetto might be an intimidating one. But for a Scandinavian scholar, the idea of getting to know one of Washington DC’s toughest neighborhoods from the inside during the racially tense, late 1960s, could well have seemed impossible. Conducting fieldwork in and around Winston Street, Ulf Hannerz did just that. Soulside details the everyday lives of the ghetto inhabitants he observed and participated with during this period, revealing their beliefs and expectations and the diversity of their life styles.

Originally published 35 years ago, Soulside became an urban anthropological classic. The book helped to dispel many false impressions about ghetto life and questioned the idea, precipitated in the influential Moynihan Report and in notions of a "culture of poverty," that the poor had chosen to lead the lives they do. Raising central moral and political questions about American society in a turbulent period, Soulside became an example of public engagement in anthropology. In a new afterword, Ulf Hannerz discusses the book’s place in the debates of the time and its relevance to current arguments in anthropology.

236 pages | 5 7/8 x 9 1/2 | © 1969, 2004

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Black Studies


Soulside’s pathbreaking description and explanation of US ghetto life is one of the greatest works of urban ethnography produced since the end of the Chicago School. This new edition will continue to inform a wide general readership while inspiring, in a sophisticated way, new generations of students trying to grapple with age old questions of culture and poverty.”

Mitch Duneier, author of Sidewalk and Slim’s Table

"The reissuing of Soulside attests to its status as a classic in the field of urbhan anthropology whose theoretical and methodological contours Ulf Hannerz has helped to shape."

Gisa Weszkalnys | Critique of Anthropology

"The reissuing of Soulside attests to its status as a classic in the field of urban anthropology whose theoretical and methodological contours Ulf Hannerz has helped to shape. [...] At a time when spatial governance, modes of surveillance and the privatization of space have become paramount themes in urban anthropology, the publicness of the urban life depicted in Soulside appears remarkable. One could attempt, in Hannerz’s spirit, a dispassionate rather than a nostalgic revisiting of street corner society. One could inquire, for example, into the place-making practices of the ghetto dwellers, and the ways in which people made sense of, managed and manoeuvred within an environment they perceived to be, as Hannerz repeatedly notes, difficult and dangerous. Soulsideis open to this kind of re-reading, which takes the city to be not merely a setting but a product of the sociality so magnificently portrayed by Hannerz."

Critique of Anthropology

Table of Contents

1. The Setting
2. Life Styles
3. Walking My Walk and Talking My Talk
4. Male and Female
5. Streetcorner Mythmaking
6. Growing Up Male
7. Things in Common
8. Waiting for the Burning to Begin
9. Mainstream and Ghetto in Culture
Appendix: In the Field
Afterword: Soulside Revisited (2004)

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