Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture

By Michael Moffatt | Go to book overview
same yearlong field season in the dorms, on the fourth floor of Hasbrouck Hall (see chapter 3). What follows--the rest of this book--is my attempt to convey some of the things I found out about college life, adolescence, and American culture in the late twentieth century at Rutgers, on the basis of two more years of fieldwork in the dorms, and on the basis of other research methods as well
Further Comments
I later encountered an only half-joking inversion of this prejudice, however. At several professional meetings, where cultural anthropologists routinely and matter-of-factly sit around exchanging details of daily life in the last poor Indian village or remote South Sea island where they did research, I told colleagues that I had spent a year or two living among undergraduates in the local dorms where I taught. "You lived in dorms with the undergraduates!" they would say. "What was it like?" Most American anthropologists spend most of their working lives in colleges and universities, yet no one else has ever applied intensive participant observation to these most local of natives. Could it be that, to these anthropologists, their undergraduate students are the ultimate unfathomable aliens?
Anthropologists do not usually operate undercover in this way. In other cultures they often simply cannot pass themselves off as one of the natives. They look too different; their language skills are too poor. But "spy" also goes against the ethics of the profession. According to the code of the American Anthropological Association, you are expected to always let your subjects know as honestly as possible who you really are and what you are really up to.

I knew this in 1977. But, as I argued to colleagues on a university review committee concerning research using human subjects, I might seriously disorient the incoming freshmen by immediately introducing myself to them as a professor. I thought I could operate more unobtrusively if they thought I was one of them at first. Then, I promised, I would "come out" and tell everyone I had fooled who I really was and what I was doing. And if I did more research in the dorms after that, I would tell new student acquaintances who I was and what I was doing as soon as possible, I promised. I would explain who I was before any formal interviewing. I would

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Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xv
  • One / Orientation 1
  • Further Comments 20
  • Two / "What College is Really Like" 25
  • Further Comments 62
  • Three / a Year on Hasbrouck Fourth 71
  • Further Comments 125
  • Four / Race and Individualism 141
  • Further Comments 168
  • Five / Sex 181
  • Further Comments 231
  • Six / Sex in College 247
  • Further Comments 266
  • Seven / the Life of the Mind 271
  • Further Comments 310
  • Appendix One on Method 327
  • Appendix Two on Typicality 331
  • Further Comments 336
  • References Cited 341
  • Index 347
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