South Los Angeles is often seen as ground zero for inter-racial conflict and violence in the United States. Since the 1940s, South LA has been predominantly a low-income African American neighborhood, and yet since the early 1990s Latino immigrants—mostly from Mexico and many undocumented—have moved in record numbers to the area. Given that more than a quarter million people live in South LA and that poverty rates exceed 30 percent, inter-racial conflict and violence surprises no one. The real question is: why hasn't there been more? Through vivid stories and interviews, The Neighborhood Has Its Own Rules provides an answer to this question.
Based on in-depth ethnographic field work collected when the author, Cid Martinez, lived and worked in schools in South Central, this study reveals the day-to-day ways in which vibrant social institutions in South LA— its churches, its local politicians, and even its gangs—have reduced conflict and kept violence to a level that is manageable for its residents. Martinez argues that inter-racial conflict has not been managed through any coalition between different groups, but rather that these institutions have allowed established African Americans and newcomer Latinos to co-exist through avoidance—an under-appreciated strategy for managing conflict that plays a crucial role in America's low-income communities. Ultimately, this book proposes a different understanding of how neighborhood institutions are able to mitigate conflict and violence through several community dimensions of informal social controls.
“In this compelling ethnography, Cid Martinez crosses institutional settings to understand how violence is managed by residents of the inner city. He meticulously describes how informal institutions create a rule of law when the state fails to penetrate the social order. Martinez’s assessment of alternative governance in the inner city is a brilliant work of urban sociology providing a perfect balance between thick description and theory development. This ground-breaking book makes a timely and crucial contribution to the study of urban poverty, policing, violence and race relations.”
—Victor Rios, author of Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys
"This book confronts head on the issues of violence and social disorganization among the poor. Cid Martinez has provided new insights into the workings of various local institutions in establishing social order. This is an excellent example of ethnography at its best and an important contribution to the field."
—Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, author of Cracks in the Pavement: Social Change and Resilience in Poor Neighborhoods
"Martinez undertakes a critical and relevant topic that contributes across many fields. His rich, extensive ethnographic work captures the nature of race relations between Latinos and African Americans in South Los Angeles . . . [and] accounts for how residents do in fact engage their communities in the hope of improvement and how they create their own rules and relations. This book will prove to be a seminal one in its field and across disciplines."
—Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
"The Neighborhood Has Its Own Rules is a wonderful testament to the power of ethnography and street-level observations of various alternative means of violence suppression. It provides the possibility of the state resourcing alternative institutions as a means to alleviate inequality. Importantly, these institutions include public education, the churches, and various nonprofit groups who choose to work in high-crime communities."
—International Criminal Justice Review
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