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Go ask Alice

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rabbit hole

Among other things, the Gideon Lewis-Kraus piece about Alice Goffman and On the Run investigated Goffman’s extremely implausible multi-part claim that:

(a) She was told, apparently on more than on occasion, by Philadelphia police that it is their routine practice, when they come to hospitals in Black neighborhoods for other reasons, to access visitor and patient lists at hospitals so as to run warrant checks on the names on those lists for the purposes of making arrests to meet purported informal arrest quotas; and

(b) She herself witnessed an example of this routine practice when she was visiting Alex, one of the main characters in On the Run, in the maternity ward after the birth of his girlfriend’s baby.

Here is the relevant quote from OTR regarding the latter supposed incident:

I got there a few hours after the baby was born, in time to see two police officers come into Donna’s room to place Alex in handcuffs . . . . The officers told me they had come to the hospital with a shooting victim who was in custody, and as was their custom, they ran the names of the men on the visitors’ list. Alex came up as having a warrant out for a parole violation, so they arrested him along with two other men on the delivery room floor.

This incident has three possible explanations:

(1) It happened, and the officers to whom Goffman spoke told her the truth about what was happening.

(2) It happened, and the officers to whom Goffman spoke lied to her about “their custom” of routinely running warrant checks on visitor and patient lists when they come to hospitals on other police business.

(3) Goffman fabricated the incident, in order to create a memorable vignette to illustrate the veracity of the claim that Philadelphia police routinely run warrant checks on hospital visitor and patient lists “in Black neighborhoods,” [as a LGM commenter points out, are we supposed to believe that the police told Goffman that their inquiries of this type were limited to Black neighborhoods?] so as to help them fulfill informal arrest quotas. (Whether this supposed claim was actually made to her by police, or by residents of Sixth Street, or was invented by her altogether is yet another question, but this rabbit hole is deep enough as it is).

After investigating the matter, by talking to Philadelphia police, criminal defense attorneys, and administrators at all the Philadelphia hospitals with maternity wards, I concluded that the third explanation is overwhelmingly more probable than either of the others. I came to the same conclusion about six other incidents in On the Run. (I did not investigate numerous other improbable incidents in the book).

Here are the fruits of Lewis-Kraus’s investigation of the matter:

When it comes to Goffman’s assertion that officers run IDs in maternity wards to arrest wanted fathers, another short Internet search produces corroborating examples in Dallas, New Orleans and Brockton, Mass.

[Emphasis added]

GLK’s short internet searches lead him to the following conclusion regarding the maternity ward story in particular, and On the Run in general:

“The most interesting question might not be whether Goffman was telling the truth but why she has continued to let people believe that she might not be.”

Steve Lubet has looked into this further:

Lewis-Kraus evidently found no “corroborating examples” in Philadelphia. Also, the on-line edition of his story (which has been posted since last Tuesday) did not include links to the articles he turned up in his “short Internet search,” thus making it difficult to corroborate the alleged corroboration.

I therefore replicated what I assumed to be Lewis-Kraus’s search parameter, and I found three stories from Dallas, New Orleans, and Brockton. Although all three were about arrests in maternity wards, none of them – repeat, none of them – involved “running IDs” in a manner similar to Goffman’s claim. (To make sure that I had the right stories, I asked a reference librarian at Northwestern to repeat the search for the three cities, and to make it as extensive as possible; he found only the same three incidents.)

Two of the cases – in Dallas and New Orleans – involved teenaged new mothers who had been statutorily raped. They had given the names of the fathers to the authorities, who then arrested the older men when they came to visit. (In the New Orleans case, the man was 40 and the juvenile 16.) There was no “running of IDs.” The Brockton case was part of a long-planned, one-day, 23-defendant drug sweep, coordinated by the FBI, the Massachusetts State Police and the Plymouth County district attorney. It likewise had nothing to do with routinely running IDs based on visitor or patient lists.

These three stories simply cannot be read as “corroborating examples” for Goffman’s claim of routine warrant checks in hospitals. If anything, they demonstrate the opposite – that maternity ward arrests are so infrequent that they make the news. In fact, the New Orleans arrest was considered so unusual that it was even reported in New York. If there had ever been a similar incident in Philadelphia – much less three such arrests in one night, as Goffman claims to have observed – why couldn’t Lewis-Kraus find a record of it in the Philadelphia press?

Goffman’s remaining defenders like to emphasize that the Philadelphia police department has a history of atrocious behavior toward the city’s poor African-American residents — the infamous MOVE bombing being the most horrifying example — and that therefore one shouldn’t doubt stories about police misconduct toward poor black Philadelphians (unless, apparently, the stories are supposedly related by the police themselves, as in Goffman’s maternity ward story).

But precisely because of that history, there is a vigorous watchdog movement in Philadelphia, in regard to police-community relations. Along with all the other reasons to doubt Goffman’s story, it is completely incredible that, if incidents of this sort were routine, they would remain unreported in the Philadelphia media. By contrast, if Goffman’s vignette represented an extremely rare or unique incident (i.e., if the police lied to her about their customary practices), how probable is it that this incident happened to one of the central figures in Goffman’s ethnographic study, and happened to him while she just happened to be at the hospital to witness it first-hand?

But beyond all this, surely Lewis-Kraus asked Goffman where and when this supposed incident took place. Even if only a small piece of the story turned out to be true — for example that someone Goffman knew from Sixth Street was actually arrested in a maternity ward, even if all the stuff about random visitor and patient list checks, and her presence on the scene was made up — why didn’t Goffman provide GLK with a few crumbs of information that, given the tone of the rest of his story, would have been treated by both him and by many of his readers as a triumphant vindication of her veracity? Are we supposed to believe that, with her scholarly reputation now in tatters, her fanatical devotion to the formal strictures of her IBR agreement kept her from doing so, even though Lewis-Kraus himself is well aware of who the main characters in On the Run are in so-called real life? (As indeed numerous other people are as well, since Goffman’s attempts to disguise their identities were cursory and/or inept).

In short, Goffman’s maternity ward story is obviously made up, at least in part, and probably altogether. Any even mildly skeptical reader of On the Run will reach the same conclusion about several other stories in the book. But if there’s one thing the Goffman affair suggests, it’s that, in regard to this book, mildly skeptical readers are apparently in short supply, at least at certain prestigious academic institutions, and in the editorial offices of the New York Times.

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  • cs

    I find it a little hard to believe that in the history of the United States there have only been three incidents of people being arrested in maternity wards. Makes me wonder what search criteria Lubet used.

    I wonder if Lubet made is search too narrow by defining the situation as the arrest of “fathers”, which isn’t exactly what Goffman said (she just said “visitors”) and may have excluded articles which didn’t happen to refer to the arestee as a father.

    On the other hand the fact that Lubet apparently found the same incidents as Lewis-Kraus does support the argument that Lewis-Kraus didn’t actually find what he said he did.

    • Brien Jackson

      I think Lubet was only specifically trying to find the three stories Lewis-Kraus claimed to find.

    • rea

      A quick search shows lots of incidents of arrests in maternity wards, but almost always for behavior in the ward.

    • twbb

      Not a maternity ward, but a warrant check of hospital visitor in Oklahoma:
      http://newsok.com/article/3693261

      • PaulB

        This is closer to what Goffmann claimed but even here, the warrant check was not random in nature but occurred because of his behavior.

  • marthat

    I’ve spoken with a number of folks in Labor & Delivery in Philadelphia. Alice’s story is false as presented, but in this Fox-news argument in pieces, her defenders rewrite what she wrote. Are people arrested in hospitals? Yes – therefore Alice must be believed. Have police been shown to lie? Yes – therefore Alice must be believed.

    As noted in your CHE piece, you gave alice an opportunity to share the hospital info with you and you would keep it anonymous. Forget police records, if she would fess up to the date where this thing supposedly happened, it could be independently verified by checking security logs, police reports, court records, and YES, even watching the security tapes of the wards. I think we all know what we would see if Alice gave us a date/location.

    It didn’t happened, but makes a great novel.

  • Assistant Professor

    Honestly, Goffman’s work seems to be the scholarly equivalent of the white fetishization of black criminality that causes white people of a certain sort to talk about how The Wire is, like, so real because Omar Has a Code of Honor.

    • LeeEsq

      While there is a racial angle to this, there is a long history of middle class fetishization of criminality or poverty in general that goes back for over a century. The mafia were also fetishized because they allegedly had a code of honor and slumming used to be a common pastime.

    • Ronan

      I’d expect better from an assistant professor than this vulgarity

      • ChrisTS

        Ronan: I don’t see anything vulgar in AP’s post. What am I missing?

      • sonamib

        Is this some kind of “The Wire” reference?

      • Ronan

        Tbh I just wanted to use the word vulgarity in a sentence.
        Having said that, I don’t think assistant professors argument is very convincing. But I realise s/he was just engaging in a bit of boilerplate, so I was just responding with my own

        • N__B

          use the word vulgarity in a sentence.

          “Here we see the vulgarity, fresh from grazing in the meadow, approaching the stream for a drink of water.”

          • Malaclypse

            “Colorless green vulgarities sleep furiously.”

            • Lee Rudolph

              “This vulgarity is dreaming of Vienna.”

              • Linnaeus

                The feeling is gone. This means nothing to me.

                • N__B

                  Don’t your feet get cold in the vulgar time?
                  The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine
                  It’s hard to tell the night time from the day
                  You’re losin’ all your highs and lows
                  Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away?

                • Malaclypse

                  Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Vulgarity R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

                • joe from Lowell

                  Vulgar? I hardly know her!

                • Malaclypse

                  I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in Vulgarity; I am a Vulgarian because of Owen Meany.

                • N__B

                  There would have been a time for such a word.
                  — Vulgarity, and vulgarity, and vulgarity,
                  Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
                  To the last profanity of recorded time;
                  And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
                  The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
                  Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
                  That “shits” and “fucks” his hour upon the stage
                  And then is heard no more. It is a tale
                  Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
                  Signifying nothing.

                • Malaclypse

                  Dammit, I felt confident I won with Owen Meany, but I must concede. That wins.

  • LuigiDaMan

    Campos continues to sit on top of Goffman and push her face in the mud.

    *Yawn.*

    • Scott Lemieux

      I like the fact that Goffman apologists have stopped even pretending to have any substantive defense; they’re retreated to the position that it’s wrong in principle to point out that incidents reported in a celebrated academic work are made up.

      • ASV

        Hasn’t she been punished enough?!

        [Awaits any consequences other than criticism in the press.]

      • This tendency is really irritating.

        I think there was a lot wrong with Paul’s article on CHE (as I’ve pointed out multiple times). I think there’s a tendency to sway between “something went wrong around Goffman” and “it’s all bunk”, which, frankly, is rather understandable. The chocolate milk study post by djw has some similar problems.

        That being said, I’m generally pro social science and I’ve worked with companies my whole computer science career, so I’m definitely vulnerable to confirmation bias the other way.

        I think it’s pretty clear though that Goffman reported events in *On the Run* that are distorted beyond what is appropriate for ethnographic reports or entirely made up. This is really bad with wider consequences that are quite bad. It doesn’t seem that the right wing noise machine has picked it up, but it could. Defending it on transparently poor grounds makes it worse. And it’s easy to slide there when dealing with the sometimes overstatements or broader brushes swung by some critics, some of the time.

        I don’t know what the mechanisms are for sanctioning her. The publisher should retract the work, in all likelihood, but doing that for books doesn’t seem common. I still don’t know if the dissertation contains the distortions or fabrication. At this point, ending the embargo and putting it online seems a minimal step.

      • twbb

        I’m curious, do you think there would be any point at which criticism of Goffman had reached a point that the sheer quantity would warrant criticism?

        Anyway I’m a Goffman “defender” in the sense that I still don’t think Paul has made a case that she absolutely had to have made it up. I also think Paul’s criticisms of ethnography as a field are weak, though he seems to have walked those back a little in his later posts on the subject.

        When I point out a couple of reasons why she may have produced an inaccurate, but not intentionally so work, I am typically greeted with a “but that would be ethnographic malpractice!” as if the idea that a junior academic on her first research project would use flawed data gathering methods is so beyond sane belief that it must have been intentional lying in order to sell books.

        • Paul Campos

          AG’s defenders manifest a strange tendency to fail to see the qualitative difference between sloppiness about details and methodological errors on the one hand, and outright fraud on the other. Youth can be a partial excuse for the first but not the second.

          I mean maybe it can even be an excuse for the second if you’re talking about a teenager or something. But if you get your book reviewed twice in the NYT you had better not be in a position of claiming that you were too naïve to realize that it’s not OK to make stuff up in a purportedly scholarly book.

          And a question for you: if you’re evaluating a piece of scholarship, what’s the proper standard before you treat it for practical evaluative purposes as fraudulent work? That it’s been demonstrated “beyond all possibility of doubt” that fraud has been committed, whatever that means? That it’s been shown by clear and convincing evidence? That it’s more likely than not?

          ETA: An academic familiar with this saga responds:

          I would even be willing to excuse some of this because of her youth. What I can’t excuse is the mountain of uncritical praise from the establishment, without bothering to ask about the accuracy of her claims.

          The manuscript and dissertation were read by: 5 members of the Princeton committee; 4 members of the ASA dissertation award committee; 4 reviewers for the ASR article; at least 2 editors and 2 referees at the U of C press. Total number of professionals who failed to see the problems: at least 17, plus the many more who are thanked in the acknowledgments.

          If there is a scandal, that’s it.

          • twbb

            I think there is a very bright line difference between the two, and again, very sloppy work can look like fraud but it does not establish intent. No matter how sloppy it is.

            As for evaluating whether scholarship is fraudulent or not, it’s (a) difficult to do absent an admission by the researcher or vanishingly rare uncontrovertible proof; and (b) not nearly as important as establishing reliability generally of both the work itself and the researcher. As I note in a comment way down it’s been criticized to the point where future researchers will not accept it uncritically, and there is no way you are going to establish through argument or polling district attorneys that she absolutely lied.

            To give a good standard of proof, how about beyond a reasonable doubt? While you are approaching that standard as to whether the work is reliable, you are not near it in terms of whether it was intentional fraud.

            • The Dark God of Time

              Quit making false statements about the case, like polling district attorney when nobody, I mean NOBODY, hospital worker, public defender, etc, outside of the LEO orbit can confirm it. If you don’t want to face what it means, fine, but don’t go making shut up just to defend the indefensible.

            • Hogan

              To give a good standard of proof, how about beyond a reasonable doubt?

              The standard for a criminal trial? For the love of God, stop helping her.

            • so-in-so

              The book may be one thing, but is sloppy that could be interpreted as fraudulent suitable for a thesis? A basis for a career?

              If a student with less well know parents submitted such work, do you think they would still earn a degree and merit a position in their field? I bet you could even do a study – prepare to gather anecdotal!

    • alex284

      I was going to write a joke comment that was something like “lying in academic work isn’t all that bad if I like the academic!” but I see someone already beat me to it.

      Damn you and your inability to be parodied!

    • Hogan

      LEAVE GOFFMAN ALOOOOONE!!!

    • Murc

      You sully the name of one this nations foremost Italian-american heroes by continuing to use him in your nym.

    • joe from Lowell

      Has there ever been a more convincing expression of genuine disinterest than typing out the asterisks next to the word Yawn in your internet comment?

      The next time you admit an error in Goffman’s book will be the first, so you really don’t get to complain about this conversation not being over.

  • PaulB

    Paul, Is there any evidence that her scholarly reputation really is in tatters as you say? Right now, it would appear that it’s just two law professors pointing out damning evidence while journalists who write about her see nothing more than minor inconsistencies and the sociology discipline would appear to be without a single critic, at least in public.

    My guess is that sociologists have in fact decided that the book has fatal flaws but that professors don’t bring that sort of thing up short of a smoking gun that can’t be overlooked. But you sure can’t find evidence of that in the public record.

    • Paul Campos

      A fair point, but note that practically nobody in the profession is now willing to defend her or the book, either on or off the record, if the GLK piece is any indication.

    • gmoot

      It’s not true that sociology is without any public critics of Goffman. E.g., Phil Cohen has very publicly critiqued what Goffman called her “ethnographic survey” of 6th street, which wasn’t rigorous enough to warrant the label of “survey” and also came up with implausible results. This was mentioned in the GLK love-fest, but rather than interview Cohen, the journalist was content to let Goffman brush it off as academic nit-picking or sour grapes. That’s just shoddy journalism.

      My reading of the GLK piece is that Goffman is setting herself up for an exit from academia, on her terms. (“It’s all so meaningless, we should be activists instead.”) She’s not stupid, and she can see the writing on the wall for her tenure prospects and ability to get outside offers (the only way to get a raise if you work at Wisconsin).

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    What’s even weirder about this is the devastating point-by-point rebuttal Goffman has written, and will show to journalists writing profiles of her, but won’t make public.

    There also a sad aspect of this story of her being the daughter of Erving Goffman who died the year she was born. So much of what she knows of her father is tied up in Dad = Brilliant Sociologist, and her parentage no doubt played a role in steering her towards sociology. (as an aside, this phenomenon of convincing themselves “I can do this because my parents did it” is a fascinating one, especially when the person then doesn’t actually put in the effort like Goffman did). She then goes into this meteoric career herself that now appears at risk of crashing.

    • Paul Campos

      This “rebuttal” was provided to me (after two months of delays) by Wisconsin in response to several FOIA requests. It showed up the day after my Chronicle piece was published. It contains no information that confirms the veracity of any of incidents I discuss in that piece.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        so the NYMag writer is really carrying water for Goffman to say that the rebuttal would help make her case

    • ASV

      Academic nepotism and its attendant privilege, at least in the social sciences, is definitely a thing.

    • Crusty

      I believe that Alice’s stepfather is William Labov, a highly respected linguistics professor at Penn. Among other things, Labov has studied “AAVE,” African American vernacular english.

      • Paul Campos

        Her mother is Gillian Sankoff, of Penn’s linguistics department.

      • Linnaeus

        Labov has, from what I understand, done seminal work on American English dialects pretty much across the board. Just about everything I know about them, I got from reading his work.

  • Gareth

    So Alice wants us to believe seven impossible things before breakfast?

  • twbb

    “This incident has three possible explanations:”

    Or police told Goffman they check guest list for names, meaning specific people they are currently looking for. Goffman interpreted it as checking all the names. Yes, Paul, I concede in that case she should have taken better notes.

    Or when the police officers said “we,” they literally meant just them glancing at the list and running a few of the names they saw. Goffman thinks it’s a common practice because it fits in with her overall thesis.

    Or they meant “guest list” metaphorically, and simply meant they hung around the maternity ward sometimes looking for visitors who they recognized as fugitives.

    Also I’m still a little confused about the endgame here. Goffman’s work has been called into doubt. Future references to her work is going to look like this:

    “Goffman’s (2015) ethnographic work supports the position that police surveillance destabilize the lives of poor people of color, though the veracity of her account has been called into question by numerous critics (Campos, 2015; Lubet, 2015).”

    Even if she lied, I think that’s the best you’re going to get, as long as she insists that what she observed she observed. That’s not a flaw in ethnography alone, but in just about any research method.

    • Simeon

      Those are explanations that Paul doesn’t seem to have considered. Perhaps if Goffman were willing to provide details of the purported arrest, any misunderstandings of this nature could be cleared up?

    • Warren Terra

      Yeah, no. The questions are about whether, as she reported they claimed to her, the police routinely examine visitor logs and patient lists. You are setting up meaningless distinctions within that space, such as whether once in possession of such a list they check all names or only scan for particular names they already know. Many people in this world – hospital workers, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys – have failed to corroborate this claim, and there seems to be little or no documented evidence of this happening anywhere (the examples cited turn out not to match this description).

      If she lied – if she made up important parts of her PhD thesis – her continuing to be a professor at an important school is an ongoing scandal. Moreover, given that the questions being asked appear not to be facially baseless and aren’t coming from knee-jerk enemies of Sociology or of Academia, the lack of a serious inquiry is itself an ongoing scandal. For at least some people exercised about this, this whole issue is about wanting our academia to be the best, most idealistic institution it can be.

      It is especially troubling that Goffman has unusually strong institutional ties that may be protecting her – her mother, her late father, and her stepfather have been highly esteemed within Sociology for her entire life – and the work being questioned falls upon such incendiary social fault lines, making discussion of its veracity easily subject to derailing.

      If she lied, the best [we’re] going to get should absolutely not be the ongoing inside-the-community whispering campaign you predict. If her work is solid she deserves to have her name cleared and her reputation restored, and if her work is fraudulent she deserves expulsion from the community. Either way, both she and the community deserve and need resolution. The absence of a process to credibly determine the truth of the situation does neither her nor her university, nor the field of Sociology and the institution of Academia, any favors.

      • Malaclypse

        Right. I’m sure someone here has more complete stats, but for every tenure-track position, there are something like 200 applicants, who, it can be presumed, did not make up their fucking dissertation. Every one of them was badly served. Her students are being badly served.

        Seriously, can you imagine turning in a research paper in her class? How what-the-fuck would that be like?

        • ASV

          Interestingly, she appears to be on leave from Wisconsin this entire academic year, at the Institute for Advanced Study. Her research description is:

          Alice Goffman’s project is an ethnographic inquiry into the formation of human bonds and human identity. What are the situations that generate, sustain, and end our bonds to people and things? What are the experiences, large and small, that make us who we are? The ideas come out of field notes, but most of the examples in the text come from novels and non-fiction.

          Which I imagine an uncharitable person could read something into.

          • twbb

            I’m sure they’re now worried a bit considering it is probably the most prestigious non-university-affiliated center of scholarship in the world.

            • Warren Terra

              I would agree the IAS is enormously prestigious, but not that it isn’t university affiliated. It is affiliated with Princeton.

              It’s not necessarily a part of Princeton, but they get their undergrads and grad students at Princeton, their faculty are (or are mostly) faculty at Princeton, they are on or just off the campus, etcetera. There is definitely a strong affiliation – or maybe “affiliation” isn’t the word you wanted?

      • twbb

        “The questions are about whether, as she reported they claimed to her,”

        No, Paul is arguing something past that. He is saying both it is inaccurate and that the only reasonable explanation is she made it up to sell books/get her PhD. That is the argument I am critiquing, and not even saying I believe Goffman or that it is impossible (or even very unlikely) that she lied, but there are reasonably believable possibilities, notwithstanding the constant unfounded assumption on here that my critique of some elements of Paul and Steven Lubet’s critiques mean I firmly believe every word Goffman wrote is reliably accurate.

        “You are setting up meaningless distinctions within that space, such as whether once in possession of such a list they check all names or only scan for particular names they already know. ”

        It’s not meaningless at all because one of the critiques raised, particularly by Lubet, is that providing the whole list could violate HIPAA on the part of the hospital and thus wouldn’t be done. The distinction is between potentially legal and potentially illegal.

        “If she lied – if she made up important parts of her PhD thesis – her continuing to be a professor at an important school is an ongoing scandal.”

        Yes. Also if she did bad work to the point that it’s not reliable, that would be an ongoing scandal, too.

        “Moreover, given that the questions being asked appear not to be facially baseless and aren’t coming from knee-jerk enemies of Sociology or of Academia, the lack of a serious inquiry is itself an ongoing scandal.”

        Absolutely a valid point, and one that I have ever disagreed with.

        “For at least some people exercised about this, this whole issue is about wanting our academia to be the best, most idealistic institution it can be.”

        It is my academia too, and I fully agree that the response to it is an important story. Focusing all the outrage on her moral failings (and the moral failings of her advisor and committee) is not the most productive way to effect positive change.

        “It is especially troubling that Goffman has unusually strong institutional ties that may be protecting her – her mother, her late father, and her stepfather have been highly esteemed within Sociology for her entire life – and the work being questioned falls upon such incendiary social fault lines, making discussion of its veracity easily subject to derailing.”

        Agreed.

        “If she lied, the best [we’re] going to get should absolutely not be the ongoing inside-the-community whispering campaign you predict.”

        Well explicit criticism in academic work is not really a whispering campaign. When your career relies on authority in your subject, having the rest of your field not trust you on that is devastating. My point is with enough question about the reliability of the work, why focus on “proving” that she’s a lying liar. Especially at this stage of the controversy (the insistence that everything must be resolved right this second

        There is absolutely a history of leftist academics, like rightist academics, potentially using false, iffy, or discredited data to push an agenda that might by itself be an admirable one. See, e.g., the Margaret Mead/Derek Freeman controversy, the Rigoberto Menchu/David Stoll issue, Nancy Lemon’s DV casebook, etc. etc. I agree that it is important to investigate these issues. I just think the critique against Goffman is over-the-top way too early.

        • marthat

          She’s still on the college speaking tour with her on-the-run presentation. There isn’t much explicit criticism of her work, except for some methodological critiques of her survey by a sociologist who otherwise supports the rest of the book, and two lawyers.

          I agree things don’t get resolved quickly (see the Arming America issue), but at least in that case, the History field was motivated to investigate the research of one of their own. All I hear out of sociology is either Lubet/Campos aren’t qualified to critique ethnography or that the individual facts of ethnography aren’t as important as the bigger picture it represents.

        • Warren Terra

          We will continue to disagree on the first part, but I’m glad we seem to have the same motives and to largely agree on the rest (the main remaining disagreement being how we would characterize an ongoing disrepute that had no material consequences). This isn’t really the impression I got from a lot of your other comments.

        • Marek

          Harrumph. By which I mean, I agree entirely. I hold no brief for AG, nor do I have a dog in this fight (my dog is resting on the couch). I am simply unconvinced that she must be lying, based on the evidence presented to date.

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