New Jersey dreaming : capital, culture, and the class of '58


New Jersey dreaming : capital, culture, and the class of '58

Sherry B. Ortner

Duke University Press, 2003

  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [313]-329) and index



Pioneering anthropologist Sherry B. Ortner is renowned for her work on the Sherpas of Nepal. Now she turns her attention homeward to examine how social class is lived in the United States and, specifically, within her own peer group. In New Jersey Dreaming, Ortner returns to her Newark roots to present an in-depth look at Weequahic High School's Class of 1958, of which she was a member. She explores her classmates' recollected experiences of the neighborhood and the high school, also written about in the novels of Philip Roth, Weequahic High School's most famous alum. Ortner provides a chronicle of the journey of her classmates from the 1950s into the 1990s, following the movement of a striking number of them from modest working- and middle-class backgrounds into the wealthy upper-middle or professional/managerial class.Ortner tracked down nearly all 304 of her classmates. She interviewedabout 100 in person and spoke with most of the rest by phone, recording her classmates' vivid memories of time, place, and identity. Ortner shows how social class affected people's livesin many hidden and unexamined ways. She also demonstrates that the Class of `58's extreme upward mobility must be understood in relation to the major identity movements of the twentieth century-the campaign against anti-Semitism, the Civil Rights movement, and feminism.A multisited study combining field research with an interdisciplinary analytical framework, New Jersey Dreaming is a masterly integration of developments at the vanguard of contemporary anthropology. Engaging excerpts from Ortner's field notes are interspersed throughout the book. Whether recording the difficulties and pleasures of studying one's own peer group, the cultures of driving in different parts of the country, or the contrasting experiences of appointment-making in Los Angeles and New York, they provide a rare glimpse into the actual doing of ethnographic research.


List of Tables and Map ix Acknowledgments xi Letter to the Class of '58 xv 1. Introduction:A Genealogy of the Present / The Class of '58 and the Question of Class / The Research / The Native Ethnographer / Project Journal 1: Getting Started 1 The Making of the Class of '58 2. Reading Class:Families and Class / Behind Closed Doors / Hiding in Plain Sight / Project Journal 2: Florida 27 3. Drawing Boundaries:To Melt or Not? / The Ethnic Story / The Class Story / Project Journal 3: Los Angeles 51 4. Dealing with Boundaries:The Others / Overt Racism / Race and Ethnic Relations at Weequabic / Internalizing Limits / Survival Strategies / Project Journal 4: New Jersey 68 5. American High Schools:Memories and Categories / Deconstructing High School / High School Types across Time and Space / Permutations of the Structure / Project Journal 5: New York 90 6. Weekquahic:The Top of the Table: High-Capital Kids and Popularity / The Lower Half of the Table: Low-Capital Kids and Resistance / Identities I: The Wildness of the Tame / Identities II: The Tameness of the Wild / Project Journal 6: New Jersey 110 7. Tracks:Weequabic qua School / College Prep? / Cultural Capital / College as a Cultural System / Gender Tracks / Project Journal 7: New Jersey 141 What the Class of '58 Made 8. Counterlives:Earlier Causes / The Other Fifities / The Sixties / Project Journa 8: New Jersey 169 9. Money:Success / Upward Mobility / The Success of Jewish Men / High -Capital Jewish Boys / Downward Mobility / Low-Capital Jewish Boys / Mobility, Agency, and History / Project Journal 9: Children of the Class of '58, New Jersey 187 10. Happiness:Zero College / Success II: Happiness / Project Journal 10: Children of the Class of '58 (LA and Other Far-flung Places, Including New Jersey) 213 11. Liberation:Women and Higher Education / Class of '58 Women and the Feminist Movement / Divorce / Careers / Succeeding in Nontraditional Careers / Project Journal 11: Endgame 238 12. Late Capitalism:The Class of '58 and the Making of Late Capitalism / The Growth of the PMC / Race Again 262 Appendix 1. Finding People / Judy Epstein Rothbard 279 Appendix 2. In Memoriam 282 Appendix 3. Lost Classmates 283 Appendix 4. The Class of '58 Today 284 Notes 295 Works Cited 313 Index 331

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