Waverly Duck-Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies & the Economy - Carnegie Mellon University

"No Way Out: Precarious Living in the Shadow of Poverty, Policing and Drug Dealing"

Dr. Waverly Duck, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh

Friday, February 24th, 2017
Steinberg Auditorium, Baker Hall A53
4:30pm - Reception
5:00-6:30pm - Lecture and discussion

posterThis presentation explores residents’ perspectives on drug dealing and law enforcement in a small black town, providing new insights into critical challenges facing low-income minority communities. This in-depth ethnographic study provides a unique opportunity to capture the cultural narrative of deprivation that exists in poor African American neighborhoods today. Few legitimate economic opportunities are available to these residents, and those that do exist come with risks. In the face of such challenges, involvement in illegal local economies becomes increasingly attractive, but at a large social cost, as the multiple risks of the drug trade affect the whole community, not just users and sellers. To introduce the project, I examine the accounts of several residents about law enforcement and drug dealing over a seven-year period, and show how they are embedded in a local interaction order—a set of patterned relations governed by endogenous rules and conventions whereby residents organize and coordinate their social lives. In doing so, I demonstrate the complex intersection of family dynamics, inadequate education, unemployment, debt, drug dealing, contact with law enforcement, imprisonment, and criminal records that are woven into the fabric of residents’ lives. 

Dr. Waverly Duck

Waverly Duck imageWaverly Duck is an urban sociologist, Associate Professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, and author of No Way Out: Precarious Living in the Shadow of Poverty and Drug Dealing (University of Chicago Press 2015; Finalist for the 2016 C. Wright Mills Book Award). His research examines the social orders of poor Black neighborhoods, as well as manifestations of race and gender among the upwardly mobile – always with a focus on how meanings are sustained within contexts of inequality (interactional, neighborhood, and organizational) through orderly cooperation. Waverly has also done research on orderly properties of communication in settings troubled by autism, welfare reform and gender. His approach is ethnographic and ethnomethodological – analyzing the social detail through which social orders of inequality are produced and maintained. After receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from Wayne State University in 2005, Professor Duck was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania and then held a post-doctoral appointment at Yale University for three years, before joining the faculty at Pittsburgh in 2010. He served as Associate Director of the Yale Urban Ethnography Project, of which he is currently a Senior Fellow. Professor Duck was a visiting professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 2013-14, in the Waisman Center, a research clinic dedicated to examining childhood psychopathology. His academic areas of interest are urban sociology, inequality (race, class, gender, health and age), qualitative methods, culture, communication, ethnomethodology and ethnography.