At Peril: Stories of Injustice

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2003 - Political Science - 328 pages

At its heart, this book is a collection of personal accounts that speak to a variety of social concerns, from youth crime and domestic violence to public education and health care. Told by children as well as adults, these stories offer illuminating if sometimes disturbing testimony about the circumstances of life in the contemporary United States. One story, for example, depicts the precarious world of a thirteen-year-old drug dealer. Another presents the searing narrative of a woman convicted of killing her abusive husband. Still another tells the painful saga of an "atomic" war veteran fighting the ravages of a disease induced and then denied by his own government.

If the stories gathered by Thomas J. Cottle seem removed from the experience of some Americans, his telling of them often blurs the line between the extraordinary and the ordinary. As he explains in his introduction, the rules and rituals, institutions and conventions that define our social life link us in a fragile web of interdependence, what Cottle calls "the ecology of peril." Viewed in this light, the lives we lead are all in some sense "at risk," ever vulnerable to the harsh vicissitudes of inequity and injustice.

Cottle organizes his narratives into four sections -- on the perils of health, family, school, and society at large. He concludes with an afterword that addresses some of the methodological issues raised by his approach. A blend of subjective insight and objective assessment, art and science, this book represents a vision of sociology as Cottle has practiced and refined it for more than thirty years. Alternately described as "story sociology" or "life study research," its aim is to recover the personal, human dimension so often overlooked in the scientific study of society.

 

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At peril: stories of injustice

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Is the 17-year-old boy who shot and killed a 12-year-old because he did not move off the older boy's shadow after being asked three times guilty of murder? Cottle (education, Boston Univ.), the author ... Read full review

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Contents

The Ecology of Peril
1
HEALTH PERIL
29
The Case for Youthful Offenders
34
THE WAITING TIME OF WILSON DIVER
50
MOTHER ON A TRAIN
57
A CHILD WATCHES TELEVISION
62
JUST A PHARMACIST
69
FEELING ILL WITH THE CITY DISEASE
73
SCHOOL CLOSING
153
MY BROTHERS KEEPER
158
TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
166
A RAINY NIGHT OF POETRY
179
A FAMILY PREPARES FOR COLLEGE
183
SOCIETAL PERIL
191
ONE JOB AND THEY WOULDVE HAD SMOOTH SAILING
197
DYING FROM THE LINES
211

FAMILY PERIL
81
A Suicide in the Family
87
RETIREMENT ACCOUNT
114
WOMEN WHO KILL
123
A SON DIES OF AIDS
135
KIDNAPPER
141
SCHOOL PERIL
147
DR PAULIES SNOWSTORM
216
MEN WITH NO ANSWERS
222
HOCKING A LIFE
236
WITNESS TO JOY
240
Life Studies and the Value of Stories
271
NOTES
297
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Page 1 - For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, eg men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
Page 14 - Education has accordingly not only to safeguard an individual against the besetting erroneous tendencies of his own mind — its rashness, presumption, and preference of what chimes with self-interest to objective evidence — but also to undermine and destroy the accumulated and self-perpetuating prejudices of long ages.
Page 16 - ... indeed, it is fair to say that it is almost ignored. Eigenwelt presupposes self-awareness, self-relatedness, and is uniquely present in human beings. But it is not merely a subjective, inner experience; it is rather the basis on which we see the real world in its true perspective, the basis on which we relate. It is a grasping of what something in the world— this bouquet of flowers, this other person— means to me. Suzuki has remarked that in Eastern languages, such as Japanese, adjectives...

About the author (2003)

Thomas J. Cottle is professor of education at Boston University. A clinical psychologist as well as a sociologist, he is the author of more than twenty-five books.

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