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byrds

Steve Lubet has tracked down the person who could well be Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s source for the off the record claim in this part of GLK’s profile of Alice Goffman:

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., and a Philadelphia public defender and a deputy mayor told me that the practice does not at all seem beyond plausibility.

First, Lubet found GLK’s “corroborating examples,” and discovered that they in no way actually corroborated Goffman’s assertions (GLK emailed me about my earlier LGM post on his story, and when I replied I asked him to allow me to correct the record if Lubet was mistaken in assuming that the three internet stories Lubet found were the same stories GLK was referencing. GLK’s subsequent response to my reply did not do so).

Lubet then interviewed Everett Gillison. Gillison was Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, and then his Chief of Staff. Gillison is also a former senior trial attorney in the Special Defense and Homicide Unit of Philadelphia’s public defender service; he spent a total of 28 years working for that agency. He is, as far as I have been able to determine, the only former deputy mayor of Philadelphia who was also a public defender.

Whether or not Gillison was GLK’s source (the quoted passage from his article may be referring to two separate people, but the article as a whole does not appear to have been edited for either content or style, so it’s difficult to say), he is, in regard to Philadelphia police practices, an impeccable source — one who is ideally situated to evaluate Goffman’s closely related and even more remarkable claim that “to round up enough young men to meet their informal quotas and satisfy their superiors, the [Philadelphia] police wait outside hospitals serving poor Black communities and run the IDs of the men walking inside.” [On the Run, p. 55).

Lubet asked him about that, and he replied:

The passage about hospitals is NOT in any way a standard practice. I spent almost 28 years as a public defender in Philadelphia and the last 8 years as Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff. This is not a practice, period. (Emphasis original.)

Goffman’s most offensive response to requests that she provide some evidence that On the Run isn’t chock full of her own creative confabulations, presented to her readers as actual social facts, is that such requests are calling into question the veracity of poor black people (Goffman herself is, to quote the noted ethnographer Marcellus Wallace, “pretty . . . far” from being either poor or black). Here is her response to GLK on this point:

‘‘The way to validate the claims in the book is by getting officials who are white men in power to corroborate them.’’ She went on: ‘‘The point of the book is for people who are written off and delegitimated to describe their own lives and to speak for themselves about the reality they face[.].

Everett Gillison and Michael Nutter — the man who appointed Gillison to be Philadelphia’s chief official overseeing the regulation of the city’s police force — are both African-American. As Lubet points out, Gillison “has dedicated virtually his entire professional life to public service, including almost three decades in defense of young men just like Goffman’s informants. He is well aware of actual police abuses and ‘improper excesses,’ as he put it in an email. ‘They are disturbing enough,’ he told me.””

But such excesses and abuses apparently weren’t disturbing enough for Goffman, who apparently fabricated various interviews with Philadelphia police, who “confirmed” to her that they wait outside hospitals and run the IDs of men walking inside. (That anyone ever believed Goffman actually extracted confirmation of such a supposed practice from the authorities indicate just how essentially non-existent the vetting process for this book was).

And even this wasn’t enough: She then had to go on to create an imaginary encounter with police in a maternity ward, who, in the midst of arresting one of her primary informamnts, helpfully paused to explain to her that they had done so after running a warrant check on the ward’s visitors list, and that this was a standard practice on their part.

If Gillison was GLK’s source it’s easy enough to imagine how a journalist with an unwavering faith in Alice Goffman’s veracity could have produced an off the record, paraphrased-rather-than-quoted observation that such a practice “does not at all seem beyond plausibility,” even though of course such an observation should be considered worthless for evidentiary purposes, to wit:

Journalist: Is this a standard practice?

Source: No.

Have you ever heard of anything like this happening?

Source: No.

Journalist: Is it possible it has happened at some point?

Source: Sure, anything’s possible.

At this point, does it at all seem beyond plausibility that the appropriate persons will page Margaret Sullivan? For example, some people might be curious about what role,if any, Alex Star, who acquired and edited On the Run for FS&G, and who is the former Senior Editor of the New York Times Book Review, as well as the Sunday Magazine, played in the commissioning and genesis of GKL’s article.

As for Goffman, I can’t say what her fate is going to be after telling all those lies, but it’s worth noting that Goffman’s fabrications regarding Philadelphia hospitals are already being cited widely in the literature, including:

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law
Spring, 2015
Symposium
The Failures of Gideon and New Paths Forward
GIDEON’S SERVANTS AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY
Alexandra Natapoffa1

128 Harv. L. Rev. 1723
Harvard Law Review
April, 2015
Development in the Law Policing
CHAPTER ONE POLICING AND PROFIT

Law and Society Review
September, 2013
Article
BASKETBALL IN THE KEY OF LAW: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF DISPUTING IN PICK-UP BASKETBALL1
Michael DeLanda1

68 Vand. L. Rev. 1055
Vanderbilt Law Review
May, 2015
Article
MISDEMEANOR DECRIMINALIZATION
Alexandra Natapoffa1

New Mexico Law Review
Fall 2011
Professional Articles
THE FAILURE OF PAROLE: RETHINKING THE ROLE OF THE STATE IN REENTRY
Christine S. Scott-Haywarda1

So what’s next? My guess is that sometime in the next year or two Goffman will decide, prior to her tenure file’s assembly, that academia is too constricting of an environment for the sort of work she wants to do. Meanwhile, the various people at Princeton, the University of Chicago Press, the American Sociological Review (which published an article by Goffman, which featured a probably made-up survey of hundreds of Sixth Street households, that has already been cited more than 200 times) will continue to maintain a decorous silence regarding their roles in this fiasco.

For now, Goffman is taking advantage of a year at the Institute for Advanced Study, working on the following project:

[A]n 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.

I suppose that’s what poker players refer to as a “tell.”

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  • J. Otto Pohl

    This entire series has been fascinating. As noted here the most disturbing part of this is not Goffman. Her motives are easy to discern. Rather it is the fact that the larger academic institutions around her at no time have sought to limit what appears to be growing damage from this work. I mean her dissertation committee, the award committee, peer reviewers at ASR, the editors at the publishing house, and others seem to have failed fantastically in exercising any decent peer review. I don’t have any hard evidence but, this failure does seem to be a result of Goffman’s personal and family connections. A fact that makes it all the more troublesome.

    • I would like to know the overlap between incidents reported in On the Run and in her dissertation. It’s possible (but is it likely?) that the dissertation is more reasonable.

      But yes, at this point, actions need to be taken by a bunch of people, quickly.

  • joe from Lowell

    Goffman’s most offensive response to requests that she provide some evidence that On the Run isn’t chock full of her own creative confabulations, presented to her readers as actual social facts, is that such requests are calling into question the veracity of poor black people

    It’s like when you’re playing a game of cards, and someone lays down a face card, and you don’t have any cards in that suit that can actually beat it, so you trump it by laying down a card that is in the trump suit. Because that card is in the trump suit, according to the rules of some games, that card will beat a very high card of another suit, even if the trump card is a 2.

    A good card player, btw, doesn’t use their trump cards when they have off-suit cards that can be the opponent’s off-suit card. Someone playing a trump card is usually an indication that they do not.

    It’s no good pointing out that the non-trump card has a higher rank than the trump card, either. That’s just the rules of that card game.

  • I can’t say what her fate is going to be after telling all those lies, but it’s worth noting that Goffman’s fabrications regarding Philadelphia hospitals are already being cited widely in the literature, including:

    This is infuriating.

    • L2P

      Yes, our analysis of Law and Pick-Up Basketball will never recover!

      Get some smelling salts and some perspective.

      • Crusty

        The fact that so much of what is written in law reviews is worthless garbage doesn’t alter the validity of Bijan’s fury at damage that is done to the method by which scholarly literature is compiled.

        • gmack

          LSR, the journal that published the pick-up basketball article, is not in fact a law review. It’s in fact the flagship journal for scholars working in the “law and society” tradition. Law and society is an interdisciplinary approach (made up mostly of political scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc.) that studies law not so much in its formal contexts (e.g., in formal legislative processes and in the courts) but in how it is lived in society. So questions about how laypeople utilize legal concepts in ordinary settings (e.g., informal conceptions and practices of private property), how, when, and why they utilize formal institutions, how “gatekeepers” in formal institutions screen out legitimate from illegitimate claims, the conceptions of law among laypeople (what they call “legal consciousness”) and so on.

          Anyway, the citation of Goffman’s story in that journal is, if anything, more troubling, because it means that the article in question was peer reviewed and no one worried about the quality of the source.

          • gmack

            Of course, now that I’m looking at it, the timeline Paul lists doesn’t make sense. He’s presenting a list of articles that have cited Goffman’s hospital story, but some of those articles appear to have been published before On the Run was published. On the Run was published in 2014, as far as I can tell. The LSR article that cited it came out in 2013, which means it was likely written and submitted a year or so before that. Was there a version of Goffman’s hospital story published and circulated before the publication of the formal book? Or am I missing something?

            • Hogan

              She had an article in the American Sociological Review in June 2009 titled “On the Run” and based on the dissertation.

            • Paul Campos

              The maternity ward arrest/visitor log story also appears in Goffman’s 2009 ASR article, which is what the LSR article cites. Here’s the passage from the article:

              Alex and his girlfriend, Donna, both age 22, drove to the hospital for the birth of their son.
              I got there a few hours after the baby was born, in time to see two police officers come into the room and arrest Alex. He had violated his parole a few months before by drinking alcohol and had a warrant out for his arrest. As an officer hand-cuffed him, Donna screamed and cried, and as they walked Alex away she got out of the bed and grabbed hold of him, moaning, “Please don’t take him away. Please I’ll take him down there myself tomorrow I swear, just let him stay with me tonight.” The officers told me they had come to the hospital with a shooting victim who was in custody and, as was their custom, 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.

              After Alex was arrested, other young men expressed hesitation to go to the hospital when their babies were born.

              [Emphasis added]

              • gmack

                Very good. I figured it was something like that, but I didn’t have time to look it up. Thanks!

      • nocutename

        Get some smelling salts and some perspective.

        Certainly, to outsiders, the concerns of academics can look silly, but we still have the right to police our own, and to be infuriated when that policing fails.

    • Yes, our analysis of Law and Pick-Up Basketball will never recover!

      Three points:

      1) There were other articles. You had fun with your cherry pick, but I think that issue of parole and decriminalisation (to pick two) are very important and have huge effects on people’s lives. I don’t know how much impact those articles will have, but I fail to see that they are necessarily unserious.

      2) Things spread. Zombie facts take a life of their own. They can spread out of these isolated contexts.

      3) What Crusty said. I can legitimately get mad about poor practice wherever it occurs. You can think that law reviews suffer from other scholarly problems (as I due) and be indignant about a new problem.

      Get some smelling salts and some perspective.

      This is rather odd. What’s out of perspective about being infuriated about falsehoods being cited as truths? I didn’t say it was the worse thing in the world. I didn’t say anything more than I found it infuriating.

      I can’t imagine what you thought you’d accomplish with this. The first line might have been moderately amusing, but the second suggests you meant to make some substantive point. V. strange.

      • And suppose these get verified. It seems unlikely, but let’s so suppose. That would be good for Goffman and research using her work, albeit not good that the communities suffer so. However, given that there are reasonable and serious issues raises now, it’s bad that such claims are being disseminated and built upon without notice that they might be fabricated in the citing work.

  • Justaguy

    You seem to be overlooking conventions of ethnographic writing, where attributing a statement or view to an individual is not an endorsement of that statement or view. In the actual text, Goffman writes what the police officer told her.

    The passage is false if the police officer didn’t say that to her. Demonstrating a gap between what she reports the policeman saying and reality does not in and of itself mean it was fabricated.
    If she is accurately reporting the officer’s statement, your investigation shows that he was lying.

    • rm

      Yeah. I think part of the friction and resistance you’re seeing to the anti-Goffman argument is that the attack on Goffman’s problems on one hand, and the attack on the entire epistemology of social sciences, especially ethnographic method, on the other hand, are hard to disentangle. People are discounting the problems with Goffman’s work out of a sense that perhaps Campos and others are just the enemies of an entire discipline.

      I’m not saying that defensive reaction is correct, but I think that’s the emotional component that makes this case hard to argue out rationally.

      • Justaguy

        I don’t think Campos is an enemy of the discipline at all. I just think he’s unfamiliar with the conventions of the discipline in a way that leads him to misread what Goffman is claiming.

        • rm

          I agree. But I think there is an emotional dimension on both sides of this argument — outrage from Campos, who may be targetting real problems but ALSO doesn’t respect the discipline he’s dealing with, and defensiveness from Goffman’s defenders, for whom it may be very hard to disentangle specific critiques from a misreading of the entire methodology of the work.

          I think I lean more to Goffman’s defense, but I would need to spend a lot of time in the weeds to be sure. I think she obviously captured a worldview of poor black people in Philly. But I don’t know enough to judge farther.

          This reminds me, since I am a literature person, of the criticisms of Zora Neale Hurston’s ethnography. She is not always the best or most scientifically reliable ethnographer, but she paid attention to cultural and historical roots that her contemporaries either despised or wanted to leave in the past, and her ethnography gave her a grounding for great literary work.

          • The Temporary Name

            With luck this link will go to the passage in question.

            It’s not misreading the book to say that Goffman herself makes the claim.

            • Justaguy

              That’s a different claim: Running visitor lists inside the maternity ward vs stop and frisks outside the hospital.

              • The Temporary Name

                Okay, I was just responding to “the passage” in your first comment as being the one provided by Campos above. It is then a separate claim that people call bullshit on then, and one asserted by Goffman herself.

    • Manny Kant

      It seems incredibly unlikely that, in the middle of conducting an arrest, an officer would stop to talk to the nosy white lady and then tell her something that blatantly isn’t true, but makes the police look bad.

      • Justaguy

        I dunno – a cop is arresting someone. Their friend asks why, and he lies about how he tracked the friend down. Is that really so unbelievable? Do they want suspects to know how they track them down?

        • Hogan

          Why does the cop tell her anything?

        • Crusty

          When asked in the middle of making an arrest, if a friend asks why, the typical cop response is, shut the fuck up, none of your business, you’re next, get out of the way, police business, or something like that. Not, well, I’m glad you asked, you see, we’ve got this policy that conforms to the narrative you’re writing about, makes us look bad and that I’m happy to share.

        • Crusty

          “Do they want suspects to know how they track them down?”

          Beat cops on the sport are not engaged in a sophisticated campaign of disinformation.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Is that really so unbelievable?

          Uh, yes?

          If police where in the habit of spontaneously confessing to illegal activity and admitting that it was motivated by racial animus, police misconduct would be a lot easier to solve. The idea that police would admit to wrongdoing they aren’t even doing, given the lengths the thin blue line will extend to cover up actual crimes, is implausible in the extreme. And, as others has said, the assertion that Goffman is merely reporting what others are saying is simply ignorant.

          • twbb

            “admitting that it was motivated by racial animus”

            Citation? Goffman claims they do it out of racial animus.

            However, this is how she characterized what the police said:

            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.

            Nothing about racial animus, and what law exactly would the police be violating if the ran the names of the men on the visitor’s list?

            If you mean the later quote that now Paul is focusing on where she says they lay in wait for black people, that is Goffman’s interpretation, presumably based on what the police told her. Outside a conclusory chapter or section stating such without citation is poor practice, but still not uncontrovertible proof of falsification.

            “the assertion that Goffman is merely reporting what others are saying is simply ignorant.”

            I guess we have different interpretations of the “The officers told me”.

            • Hogan

              If you mean the later quote that now Paul is focusing on where she says they lay in wait for black people, that is Goffman’s interpretation, presumably based on what the police told her.

              Which goes back to Scott’s question: why would they tell her that?

            • Scott Lemieux

              Nothing about racial animus,

              I thought one of the officers said that the practice was confined to black hospitals?

              and what law exactly would the police be violating if the ran the names of the men on the visitor’s list?

              Yes, my mistake. “Pressuring hospital employees to engage in illegal and unethical behavior.” And, by the way, Goffman accusing these employees of engaging in this behavior with no corroborating evidence is quite reprehensible.

              I guess we have different interpretations of the “The officers told me”.

              As Paul quoted below:

              To round up enough young men to meet their informal quotas and satisfy their superiors, the police wait outside hospitals serving poor Black communities and run the IDs of the men walking inside.

              She states it as fact. It’s worth noting that there’s apparently no contemporaneous evidence for the “quotas” assertion either. (Not that “she uncritically quotes police officers implausibly describing bad conduct that doesn’t happen and gives the reader the strong impression that this is a thing,” your interpretation, is much of a defense.)

              • twbb

                “I thought one of the officers said that the practice was confined to black hospitals?”

                I thought it was Goffman who said that.

                “Yes, my mistake. “Pressuring hospital employees to engage in illegal and unethical behavior.””

                Again, no law that I know of that prevents police from examining visitor logs if the hospital allows it. HIPAA even allows the police to seek information about specific patients who they think might be fugitives.

                At least one hospital itself runs felony warrant background checks:
                http://www.todayshospitalist.com/index.php?b=articles_read&cnt=1864

                This story out of Oklahoma notes that the police found a fugitive who was visiting a hospital because he was “nervous” (which any cop can claim about any person they want to run a check on):
                http://newsok.com/article/3693261

                Police run warrant checks on hotel guest lists:
                http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20150414/NEWS/150419569

                So yeah, still not out of the realm of possibility that these philly cops who talked to her actually do run warrant checks on visitor logs.

      • LeeEsq

        Paul Campos convinced me to be skeptical of Goffman’s On the Run but I can still easily see something like this happening. To paraphrase I recent movie, “I don’t get it, why are they confessing? They aren’t confessing, their bragging.”

      • twbb

        Why does it make the police look bad? Depending on how the check was made, it could make them look like they were doing their job in a clever manner.

        Even if it does make the police look bad, would the police saying it necessarily know that? I mean, if Paul and Steven Lubet want another question they can run by both public defenders and prosecutors, they can ask “have you ever heard a police officer say something dumb?” Pretty sure they will get a lot of great data.

        • Crusty

          It makes them look bad because they are admitting to a policy of deliberate racism- we do X in the hospitals that serve the poor black neighborhoods.

          In any event, my recollection of Philadelphia geography and hospitals is that there aren’t many hospitals that serve exclusively poor black neighborhoods, as the neighborhoods are too small and not enough hospitals, with the possible exception of Temple University Hospital in North Philly.

          • muddy

            It’s not just an admission of racism, it would be an admission that they are breaking the HIPAA law outright.

            • rea

              HIPAA doesn’t protect hospital visitors lists, as far as I can tell.

              • Paul Campos

                But it does protect patients:

                According to the officers I interviewed, it is standard practice in the hospitals serving the Black community for police to run the names of visitors or patients while they are waiting around, and to take into custody those with warrants, or those whose injuries or presence there constitutes grounds for a new arrest or a violation of probation or parole.

                p. 34

                • Right, but it would be the hospital that’s violating the HIPPA regulations, not the police. The police aren’t covered by HIPPA, only the health care provider.

                • twbb

                  Also hospitals can provide information on specific patients if requested, so the police can actually give some names to the hospital and request the hospital check them.

                • Marek

                  But see 45 CFR 164.512(f)(2) (covered entities permitted to disclose certain protected health information, including name, address, DOB, SSN, date and time of treatment, type of injury, and distinguishing physical characteristics, in response to a law enforcement official’s request made for the purpose of locating or identifying a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person).

                  This doesn’t vindicate AG by any means. But, I don’t think what has been described is a HIPAA violation.

                • Hogan

                  Also hospitals can provide information on specific patients if requested, so the police can actually give some names to the hospital and request the hospital check them.

                  But Goffman describes the opposite of that–the hospital gives all its names to the police.

                • twbb

                  If the conversation occurs the way Goffman describes it, the listener can’t be sure how exactly they’re checking. If a cop passes a list of 4 names to whoever’s manning the visitor log (if someone is actually manning it), and asks them to check each name against the list, that would be consistent with what the cops told her.

        • Hogan

          For one thing poring over patient and visitor lists at a hospital on the off chance that you’ll recognize the name of a known fugitive is, shall we say, not a good use of police time, even if hospitals made such lists available. (Why hospitals anyway? Why not train stations and airports?)

          “You were closest to the scene of that bank robbery. Why didn’t you respond to the radio call?”

          “Sorry, captain, we were looking at the visitors log at the hospital, and it was a busy day there.”

          “Oh, well, that’s OK then. Find anyone?”

          “Nope, same as the last six times.”

          “Keep up the good work.”

          • twbb

            I guarantee you police will check train stations and airports for fugitives.

            Also the police do a lot of things that are not a good use of police time, e.g. http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data.

            • Hogan

              I guarantee you police will check train stations and airports for fugitives.

              And well they should! When there’s a reason. But do they just show up at random and check passenger lists?

              Also the police do a lot of things that are not a good use of police time

              Stop-and-frisk was an official policy. Is there evidence that hospital checks in Philadelphia were an official policy?

    • Robert M.

      There are, broadly, three ways to explain the lack of corroboration. Goffman is guilty of fabricating the incident, Goffman is accurately relating the incident but fabricating the conversation with the police officer, or the police officer was fabricating the method and reason for the arrest.

      The third possibility is made less likely by the fact that the police officer was telling a story that made him look bad.

      The second and third possibilities are both made less likely by the fact that arrests in maternity wards are newsworthy enough that the Dallas, New Orleans, and Brockton incidents were reported.

      That leaves the first explanation as the most likely. There’s not only no evidence other than Goffman’s that checking visitor logs is a common police practice, there’s no evidence other than Goffman’s that the arrest she describes happened at all.

      ***

      Finally, and separately, even in the ethnographies I’ve read (and certainly in every qualitative research method I was taught, explicitly including ethnography), the researcher is not obligated to related statements made by actors uncritically. Goffman doesn’t present any indication that she didn’t find the police officer’s statement credible; instead, she’s relating something she expects the reader to find unjust and shocking.

      • ASV

        Your last point is quite correct, and is additionally complicated by the fact that she’s not conducting an ethnography of police practice. If, for example, she had written that someone in the neighborhood told her Alex was arrested because the police routinely run visitor lists for warrants, this conversation would not be happening. Not to mention, all her responses since then have suggested that she believes this is true, not just that it’s true that a cop said it but he might have been lying. There’s no other way to explain saying that challenging this claim is an attempt to silence the voices of poor black people.

      • Paul Campos

        Right. Goffman doesn’t say “I was told by a/two/several/ cops that Philadelphia police wait outside hospitals, and run the IDs of men walking in for outstanding warrants.” She doesn’t say “I was told by residents of Sixth Street that” etc. She says the police do this, period.

        Now if she had actually been told this by a or the police it seems she was lied to by that person or persons. This seems incredibly unlikely to me for reasons that should be obvious. If she were told this by a resident or residents of Sixth Street she would have been told what is almost certainly an urban legend. I suspect the latter is what actually took place, and then she dressed it up with bogus evidence from the police themselves, in the case of the maternity room incident.

        Now if *all* she had done was relay the beliefs of Sixth Street residents as if those beliefs were accurate in this case, without making clear that she was describing their beliefs, rather than making a claim — as she in fact explicitly does — about the actual practices in question, then that wouldn’t be academic fraud, but it would be badly done ethnography.

        But evidently she didn’t stop there: she went on to fabricate confirmation for her claims.

        • twbb

          Wait a minute; this is how YOU quote the relevant passage:

          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.

          I don’t see any legitimate reading of the first sentence where it’s not the police officers saying it was their custom. Are you arguing that they told her they had come to the hospital with a shooting victim, and then mid-sentence Goffman switches the speaker to herself?

          • Paul Campos

            No, I’m arguing that this purported conversation never took place in any form, because the entire maternity ward incident is a complete fabrication on Goffman’s part.

            • Justaguy

              And you know this because… ?

              • Paul Campos

                I “know” it in the sense that the matter has been investigated extensively, not only by Lubet and me, but by people such as GLK and Jesse Singal, who are very sympathetic to Goffman, have interviewed her at length, and have had every incentive and opportunity to find some evidence that this incident actually happened, and nobody has come up with anything indicating that it did.

                No one has been able to find any evidence of anything resembling this sort of arrest ever taking place in Philadelphia, let alone that it happened to one of Goffman’s primary informants while she was there to witness it.

                • Justaguy

                  What do you mean “This sort of arrest”? Someone being arrested in a maternity ward? Is there a way to verify whether that hasn’t happened?

              • Paul Campos

                “This sort of arrest” = police running random warrant checks on hospital visitor and patient lists, whether in a maternity ward or elsewhere in a hospital.

                • Justaguy

                  Again, is Goffman claiming that happened. or is she reporting the police saying that’s what they did?

                  The passage in question is incredibly clear on that point. Her claim is that the police told her they check the visitor logs.

                • Hogan

                  Then someone–maybe Goffman?–should contact the authors of the articles Paul lists above, because they’re not saying “a police officer told Goffman that he runs warrant checks against lists of hospital patients and visitors.” They’re saying “The Philadelphia police routinely run warrant checks against hospital patient and visitor lists (see Goffman).”

            • twbb

              I know your overall argument. I was addressing your further argument you make in the comment above where you explicitly say:

              Right. Goffman doesn’t say “I was told by a/two/several/ cops that Philadelphia police wait outside hospitals, and run the IDs of men walking in for outstanding warrants.”

              So no, “She says the police do this, period” is not supported by your own quote of Goffman. She actually DOES say that “I was told by a/two/several/ cops” about the warrant checks. And the way she phrases it she’s not necessarily even saying police do it in general, just the officers who told her.

              Now if she accepted such a statement uncritically, which seems to be what Robert M. above is criticizing, then that is a perfectly legitimate criticism. If you’re criticizing the passage you quote below, where she then reports what she found out as fact, also a fair criticism, which goes to her lack of critical inquiry. But it is just not accurate to say that she didn’t attribute that information to the police telling her it was their policy.

        • Justaguy

          Doesn’t she say “Cops told me they check the visitor logs”? How is that making claims beyond reporting a conversation with two police officers?

          • Paul Campos

            To round up enough young men to meet their informal quotas and satisfy their superiors, the police wait outside hospitals serving poor Black communities and run the IDs of the men walking inside.

            P. 55 of the Kindle edition.

            Goffman provides no citation for this statement, and the only support she provides for the claim that Philadelphia police have informal arrest quotas is a 45-year-old study of urban policing practices.

            • djw

              Yikes.

            • The Temporary Name

              It’s moreover not just a toss-off, but the beginning of a chapter, which is meant to frame everything that follows.

              • Schadenboner

                The thing is, her presenting this practice as a commonly believed tactic (notwithstanding the reality/unreality of this practice) would be enough to demonstrate her target community’s level of alienation from social institutions, which would be powerful in itself. I am unsure why she decided she had to present this as something that she saw actually happening.

          • joe from Lowell

            Yes, certainly. She was probably just making the point that the police report doing awful, racist things that they don’t actually do, or that she doesn’t believe for a second that they actually do.

            I’d say that’s the rational, objective reading here. Why is everyone being so mean to Goffman?

      • cs

        The second and third possibilities are both made less likely by the fact that arrests in maternity wards are newsworthy enough that the Dallas, New Orleans, and Brockton incidents were reported.

        Based on what I have read here, I’m in the Goffman made it up camp, but I have to say I don’t think this makes any sense. Some arrests make the papers and some don’t, for various reasons usually unrelated to the specific location where they occurred. Just because some arrests at maternity wards make the papers doesn’t imply that they all do.

      • JustRuss

        the researcher is not obligated to related statements made by actors uncritically.

        This. I’m not an ethnographer, but I was trained as a journalist before stenography became the norm, and we were expected to have a functioning BS detecter and to corroborate any statements that set it off.

    • MattT

      This would be much more plausible if she hadn’t destroyed her notes. Not wanting to release notes to just anyone is completely reasonable and consistent with protecting privacy. Destroying them so that they can never be checked by any mutually agreed to third party with privacy protections in place is very different.

      Maybe standards are different in this field, but I would consider destruction of original research records without a compelling reason to come pretty close to misconduct on its own.

      • AcademicLurker

        If her notes contained material which, if subpoenaed, could send one of her informants to jail, then I think destroying that material is justified.

        As for destroying all of her notes, I’m not so sure.

        • MattT

          I agree that this would constitute a good reason, but it seems like there should be some kind of professional principles in the field about destroying the minimum amount necessary to protect subjects, as well as about when that destruction should occur and who else should have seen the notes before destruction (I’d think at least one or two other people also bound by confidentiality). Suddenly deciding that everything has to be destroyed because other academics are looking into it does not seem like acceptable academic practice.

          • rea

            Well, no, I don’t think destroying your notes because they contain a confession of a crime and might be subpoenaed is a legitimate scientific practice. There is no ethnographer-subject privilege.

            • Justaguy

              Maintaining the confidentiality of your informants and ensuring that nothing negative happens to them because of your research is essential to doing ethical research. The law doesn’t recognize a privilege which protects field notes, which is why you need to destroy your field notes if there is a chance they might be subpoenaed or could in any way come back to harm your informants.

              So, yes destroying her notes was a legitimate scientific practice.

              • Warren Terra

                “destroying her notes” was legitimate? Mightn’t there have been some legitimate middle ground? Expurgating her notes of incriminating material? Encrypting or anonymizing or offshoring her notes?

                • MattT

                  Exactly. And it doesn’t seem like there was any effort to take those kind of measures earlier, when the book came out and had the potential to draw attention to her subjects. It was only when it drew academic scrutiny (not any hint of legal scrutiny) that it suddenly became critical to immediately destroy everything. Destroying your notes pretty directly in response to questions about your accuracy seems totally indefensible.

                • twbb

                  The IRB rules I’ve had to learn, and the IRB forms I have had to fill out, at least encourage destroying data when you’re done with it.

                • Warren Terra

                  Really? I’ve never dealt with human subjects, so it’s quite different, but in theory I’m supposed to keep everything.

            • If there were privilege, would there be need to destroy them?

              http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/hi/ethics-guide-ethnog-anthrop_en.pdf

              Gaining consent cannot easily be separated from the giving of information. Subjects should be able to choose ‘freely’ to participate in research. They should have been given enough information about the research for them to know what their participation involves. In anthropological studies participants’ consent may have to be treated as ongoing throughout the research engagement. Consent should be gained in the most convenient, least disturbing manner for both researcher and researched. If confidentiality and/or anonymity have been promised then the steps taken to ensure this should be outlined.

              Underlying these frameworks are some basic ethical principles. These include doing good (beneficence), avoiding doing harm (non-malificence), and protecting the autonomy, wellbeing, safety and dignity of all research participants. This means that anthropologists should ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research on, or with whom they perform other professional activities. They must seek to ensure the psychological wellbeing, or even the survival of those they are studying, carefully and respectfully negotiating the limits of the relationship between researchers and those being researched. They should maintain as objective as possible a comparative analytical stance and avoid ethnocentricity. They should not normally deceive their subjects without good reason. Nor should they knowingly misrepresent (i.e., fabricate evidence, falsify, plagiarize), or attempt to prevent the reporting of misconduct, or obstruct the scientific/scholarly research of others. There is an obligation to make use of the results of their work in an ‘appropriate’ fashion. Individual researchers may choose to move beyond disseminating research results to a position of advocacy on behalf of their subjects. Dissemination and reporting of research findings must be done with a view to the basic principles of beneficence and non- malificence.

              Material harm

              The most common economic deprivation to be suffered by research participants is their giving of ‘free’ time. This is frequently compensated for with gifts or other material rewards – all of which may have consequences in the larger community. Participants’ very livelihood could even be put at risk.
              The legal consequences of research participation are likely to inhere in the respondents offering information that implicates them in illegal activity or discloses their involvement in criminality.

              All of these harms can arise out of participation while others may be consequent on certain categories of people being excluded. If a research project fails to explore the situation of illegal immigrants in employment, for example, by excluding such subjects on the grounds of protecting their anonymity and fearing legal obligations to disclose their identity, the true facts of their situation may fail to be disclosed and the production of policies designed to resolve their situation thereby hampered.

              The duty of confidentiality is owed on the basis of a contractual (formal or informal) understanding between researcher and researched. But that duty can be breached by either party to the contract if, say, police authorities request data which is relevant to a case they are investigating or a court issues a subpoena which demands the data be disclosed. If criminal activity is disclosed the researcher has to choose between obedience to the law and a breach of any confidentiality and anonymity originally promised. The researcher’s moral integrity only remains intact if this is clearly understood by the respondent prior to the commencement of the research. Yet making that clear may have methodological consequences in producing a tendency to minimal disclosure by the respondent as a safety precaution. Once more though, it takes a cautious respondent to always bear in mind the sensitivity of their own information once released into a more public domain.

              One device is to randomise the reporting of responses in order to disguise potentially incriminating information. In that way researchers could not subsequently be required to disclose identities.

              It’s a complex topic.

              • Justaguy

                If there were privilege, there would be less need to destroy them. But, I disagree with that ethics guideline – as a researcher your obligation not to cause your subjects harm trumps any obligation you have to the legal system.

                In practice that becomes very messy, as lots of complex situations arise with no clear answer. But Goffman destroying her notes is not one of them – it is incredibly straightforward.

                • Robert M.

                  I’m not sure what you’re saying here (ETA: that is, “it is incredibly straightforward” doesn’t actually describe the course of action you think she should have taken), but one of the many problems I have with Goffman destroying her notes is that if the participants in her study provided informed consent, they knew her notes could be used as evidence by police.

                  That is, the fact that she felt she had to destroy her notes is at least suggestive that her data collection violated the ethical guidelines for human-subjects research. Note that this is a separate issue from whether or not events in her book were fabricated.

                  ***

                  With regard to “ethnographer-subject privilege”, the guidelines for ethical conduct in research exist in this case precisely because there is no privilege.

                  Basically, they say “Don’t collect information that would compromise your informants unless you can protect that information.” And since you don’t have a defense against a legal subpoena, that means you don’t collect information that would be cause for legal action against your informants.

                • Warren Terra

                  What does “don’t collect information” mean, though? Witnessing something is “collecting information”, and as a witness your testimony can be subpoena’d. Obviously it must mean “do not generate records of criminal activity”, or perhaps “do not keep records of criminal activity”. And we know Goffman claims she did generate records, and then destroyed them so they couldn’t be subpoena’d. But note: this means she could have destroyed only those parts of the records that constituted a risk to her research subjects; my understanding is that she instead claims to have destroyed everything.

                • Justaguy

                  “I’m not sure what you’re saying here (ETA: that is, “it is incredibly straightforward” doesn’t actually describe the course of action you think she should have taken), ”

                  She should have destroyed her field notes and if subpoenaed, she should refuse to testify and deal with the legal repercussions for doing so.

                  “That is, the fact that she felt she had to destroy her notes is at least suggestive that her data collection violated the ethical guidelines for human-subjects research.”

                  This is an issue a good institutional review board would discuss with you before you do your research. The idea that you shouldn’t do research which involves people who violate the law – which would close off areas like sex work, drug use, etc. from research.

                • But, I disagree with that ethics guideline – as a researcher your obligation not to cause your subjects harm trumps any obligation you have to the legal system.

                  I don’t think that is so clear since plenty of criminality involves harms to persons, some of which you may be studying as well, some which you may not be.

                  Not all research, even excellent research on important topics, is ethically possible.

                • twbb

                  If it’s not illegal and they’re not claiming racial animus, it gets a lot more likely that they’ll tell her that.

                  Maybe I just don’t see it as shocking a confession as people here are making it. I haven’t heard a single rationale for why police examining visitor logs would violate the law. Hospitals are heavily-policed. A quick google search found a hospital that itself checks visitors for felony warrants:

                  http://www.todayshospitalist.com/index.php?b=articles_read&cnt=1864

  • L2P

    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., and a Philadelphia public defender and a deputy mayor told me that the practice does not at all seem beyond plausibility.

    Journalist: Is it possible it has happened at some point?

    Source: Sure, anything’s possible.

    To clarify,the new Goffman outrage is that a source said something was “possible,” but a journalist then had the gall to say that thing was “not implausible?”

    We’re getting close to History’s Greatest Monster time here…

    • Crusty

      Not really.

    • Robert M.

      The “new outrage” is that even a very friendly article assessing the truth value of her work was unable to come up with corroboration. The closest the article’s author could come was moderately distorting a source’s characterization of the evidence.

      • Scott Lemieux

        very friendly article assessing the truth value of her work was unable to come up with corroboration.

        And, worse than that, wrote it up in a way that gave the reader the impression that corroboration had been found.

  • AcademicLurker

    As for Goffman, I can’t say what her fate is going to be after telling all those lies

    The thing is, due to the conventions of ethnography (at least as they have been described in the wake of the kerfluffle over On the Run) and the fact that Goffman destroyed all her notes, proving that any outright lies were told will be pretty much impossible unless Goffman holds a press conference and says “Psych! I made it all up!”. I don’t see how it ever gets past the “seems fishy to me” stage.

    If she had tenure, I imagine she could just brazen it out, since dismissing a tenured professor requires provable wrongdoing of some kind (then again, she’s at the University of Wisconsin. I’m not sure what tenure means there these days). Since she’s pre-tenure, I’m guessing she’s in trouble at promotion time unless she can mount a more convincing defense of her work than she has so far.

    • PaulB

      Why should she have any trouble obtaining tenure? Her dissertation won the highest award in her profession and the book that was based on it has been a best seller. Two law professors have accused her of fabricating key parts of her story but journalists for the NYT and New York magazine have looked into their accusations and haven’t found anything serious. No one in the sociology profession other than the anonymous soul whose 50 page takedown of her book that brought this matter to the attention of Campos and Lubet has said anything negative about her on or off the record. I’m sure there have been private conversations about this among sociologists, but unless someone in the profession wants to violate the code of silence and criticize her publicly, tenure is hers if she wants to formally ask for it.

      • AcademicLurker

        I haven’t followed this closely enough to say what should happen one way or the other. I’m just noting that “Up and coming award winning scholar” makes you a pretty sure thing for tenure, while “Scholar whose initially well received work has been dogged by controversy and accusations of dishonesty” makes you much less of a sure thing.

      • ASV

        I don’t know the tenure procedure at Wisconsin, but I’m pretty sure it’s not just her department that has a say in it. For me there were four internal reviews before it went to the provost for a decision: department committee (all tenured faculty), department chair, college committee (three tenured faculty from each department), and dean. Each wrote a letter in support or opposition to my case. Additionally, part of my dossier was letters from five external reviewers, chosen by the dean from a list that I started and that she and my chair edited and added to. There’s no chance that nobody’s bringing this up during that whole process if it’s the same for Goffman, and I can certainly imagine people outside her department not being as OK with everything as the department seems to be.

      • Crusty

        Maybe Scott Walker will make denying her tenure the centerpiece of his next campaign?

      • gmoot

        It’s just not true that there have been no public critics within sociology. Some were even referenced in the GKL story, although he was perfectly willing to accept Goffman’s dismissal of the critics. That’s on the journalist, not on the discipline.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    If sociology is anything like my field of the social sciences, which shall remain unnamed, then it is probably shot through with anxiety over its lack of public influence. This book comes along, gets a lot of positive attention in the broader media, and comports nicely with current events (Black Lives Matter, etc.), and I think that is enough to gain her a lot of sympathizers in the field (ASA, etc.) who want to promote the book to the broader public in the name of increasing sociology’s participation in the current conversation over these important issues.

    In reply to that, of course, I would say that an academic field isn’t worth much to the current conversation unless it is upholding its own standards.

    • Robert M.

      I would say that an academic field isn’t worth much to the current conversation unless it is upholding its own standards.

      Critical peer evaluation is one of the hallmarks of science. So I’d say in order for a group of researchers to comprise a field at all, they have to (1) have standards for what counts as research, and (2) uphold those standards.

      If you don’t have those elements, you’re not a field of research–you’re a group of people gathered around a campfire telling stories to one another. Which isn’t to take away from the value of storytelling, but it’s not the same epistemological beast as science.

    • Warren Terra

      I think the Bellesiles controversy is a useful comparison. Bellesiles was briefly enormously visible and influential, because his claims had such political resonance. Then he was exposed to be a certifiable fraud (it helps that his claims could be documented to be false, without his cooperation, in a way Goffman’s can’t, or can’t as easily). So it was painful, but Bellesiles had to be cast out. And because he was cast out historians remain on the whole credible pundits with things to say relevant to current events, and any bitter right-winger who wishes to discredit all historians by reference to Bellesiles must if pressed admit that the field cleaned house there. If instead Bellesiles had kept his job, maybe moved on to a one year residency at the IAS, been cited a lot – then the entire field would have been damaged.

      Now, obviously the comparison has problems. Bellesiles was absolutely a fraud, and already proven to be; Goffman is beset by troubling allegations, and not yet proven to have done wrong.

      But on the other hand: some people at the highly prestigious New Press, and some people affiliated with the late Howard Zinn, didn’t get the fncking memo, and continued to embrace Bellesiles long after he was proven to be a cheat and liar and deserving of excommunication from academic History. The New Press published a further book authored by Bellesiles under Zinn’s People’s History imprint. They brought enduring shame upon themselves – and if self-perceived politically conscious people in History will do that for a proven fraud, what will political poseurs within Sociology do for Goffman? How will they damage the field on her behalf?

      • I think the Bellesiles controversy is a useful comparison.

        I hadn’t known that case. It does seem to be a close parallel. Interesting! Thanks for the ref.

      • PaulB

        Warren, you’re giving credit to academic historians that does not reflect what happened in the Bellesiles case. The original critic of his book was an amateur historian, Clayton Cramer, who was interested in this subject but also an active proponent of gun rights. There was zero interest in what he had to say by the history department at Columbia which awards the Bancroft prize, even though the shortcomings could be easily identified. It was only when an academic from outside the discipline, Northwestern Law’s James Lindgren wrote about the book multiple times did historians reluctantly get around to looking at the issue.

        One thing in common with the Goffmann case is that when an informal investigation finally began they asked for his field notes. He didn’t destroy them like she did. They were iinstead destroyed in a water main break at the Emory history building a couple of years earlier! (That water break did actually occur) Even without those records it was easy to prove that in some cases the records he cited did not say what he claimed they did, and in one case the records from late 19th century San Francisco could not have been seen by him because all city records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.

        For anyone who cares at all about academic work not being a fabrication, the response by historians to the accusations against Bellesiles serves instead as an example why right wing critics, bitter or not, argue that a field with almost complete lack of ideological diversity can not be trusted to police itself when it comes to work relevant to current day political controversies.

        • Mrs Tilton

          It was only when an academic from outside the discipline … wrote about the book multiple times did historians reluctantly get around to looking at the issue.

          It’s certainly true that humans tend to have a strong bias towards things that confirm what they already believe. If only they were aware of this, and possibly even had a term for it!

          Thing is, though, once Bellesisles had been exposed, he became a pariah to those whose biases he had confirmed, and for exactly the reason that Warren describes. In this way the Bellesisles case is exactly like the case of John “Mary Rosh” Lott, who was totally not given a sinecure in the grove of right-wing pseudo-academe when it turned out that the dog had eaten his homework.

          a field with almost complete lack of ideological diversity

          What do you mean, “lack of ideological diversity”? Your lot have David Barton.

      • durk

        And it is useful to compare Bellesiles to the John Lott-Mary Rosh cf. Lott also lost his pro-gun data in a (unconfirmed) flood. But Lott-Rosh differs on two points:
        a) Lott is not a “real academic”
        b) fraud is irrelevant to the sources of his quasi academic funding

  • Warren Terra

    Okay. So, let’s recap: Goffman is telling a highly incendiary, enormously eyecatching story, which has at its core the notion that the police routinely check visitor list at the hospital to see if there’s a visitor they want to arrest. She attributes this claim to a police officer, and moreover she asserts that she has herself seen such an arrest.

    The central idea is almost certainly false: no-one anywhere has ever heard of such a practice, and many are outraged by the notion and claim there are various reasons it couldn’t happen. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the arrest Goffman purportedly witnessed happened, and Goffman refuses to substantiate anything – the identity of the arrestee, the identity of the cop doing the arresting, the time or place of the arrest.

    So, now we have her defenders claiming that’s good enough – that all she says is that a cop said this to her, so it’s fine she report it as a sort of hearsay evidence that will then get reported as fact all over the world thousands of time. She has no responsibility to consider whether what she reports having been told was true, no duty to investigate it further before passing it along, she doesn’t even have to offer any confirmation of what she herself supposedly saw happening. And this is supposed to be the standard practice in the field, so she’s cool?

    Well, screw that. I don’t believe that for a minute. I wasn’t born yesterday, and neither were her academic peers. Neither were the people at Princeton who have announced that her PhD thesis was (1) the best thesis of the year and (2) not something they wish to let people see. The laughably lax standard her defenders insist she must be held to is the problem. It shows a disregard for the truth and appears to be motivated by some sort of blinkered tribalism, as if to admit error on her part – or even just to commit retrospection once questions are raised – would open up the entire field to illegitimacy. But that’s backward! The only way the problematic claims of Goffman can damage the field is if the field embraces her and insists those claims aren’t a problem.

    Heck, Goffman herself could have been prompted to investigate and (assuming she came to the same conclusion as every other investigator) could have said “I truthfully reported that a cop told me something, but further investigation calls that cop’s claims into question”. She refused to do anything of the kind, and much more than any failings on her part it’s the ongoing circling of the wagons around her that’s the true problem. It disappoints me that some people refuse to see that.

    • so-in-so

      Plus, once enough works cite this information, you can bet some RWers will be all over it as an example of how academics can’t be trusted (the first anti-climate change claims practically write themselves) as well as how liberal’s claims against the police must be discounted because even in peer-reviewed work the academics got it wrong. That’s some fine support for disadvantaged people of color.

    • Jason

      Yes, thank you. As someone who loves Anthropology, the disciplines ignoring problems with Ms. Goffman’s work is what drives me bonkers. If I had conducted such shoddy research as an undergrad, I am certain that my advisors would not have defended me or upheld my findings. It’s doubly aggravating because I suspect I agree with most of Ms. Goffman’s perspective on policing poor minorities; but her findings are worthless if she fabricated her ethnography.

    • Neither were the people at Princeton who have announced that her PhD thesis was (1) the best thesis of the year and (2) not something they wish to let people see.

      Embargoing isn’t ideal, but it’s not necessarily wrong. Protection of sensitive personal information or of industrial secrets seem quite legit (we embargo sections of e.g., MSc theses that are done with an industrial collaborator where those bits are commercially sensitive; we try to avoid that in PhDs). To prevent poaching seems less ideal, but I get it esp. if it’s time limited. Once you win an award for best dissertation I would have hoped that the awarding body would have published it. (That’s what the BCS does.)

      The only way the problematic claims of Goffman can damage the field is if the field embraces her and insists those claims aren’t a problem.

      I agree 100%.

      Well, 99%. Housecleaning won’t prevent e.g., Congress from defunding programs and grants with a nominal cite of Goffman as the reason. But that’s a really poor reason to destroy yourself.

    • ASV

      So, now we have her defenders claiming that’s good enough – that all she says is that a cop said this to her, so it’s fine she report it as a sort of hearsay evidence that will then get reported as fact all over the world thousands of time. She has no responsibility to consider whether what she reports having been told was true, no duty to investigate it further before passing it along, she doesn’t even have to offer any confirmation of what she herself supposedly saw happening.

      And even that doesn’t hold water given that all indications are that she believes it to be true. If her response had been, “Hey, that’s what the cop told me; it can’t be helped if he was lying,” that would be shoddy work, but much different than what she’s actually said.

  • joe from Lowell

    One of the arguments I often see about the police/maternity ward anecdote is that anthropologists often report verbatim the statements of their subjects, even when they aren’t reliable, because they let us know how those subjects think. Hence, “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.” is defended as an example of her reporting what a cop told her.

    Except she wasn’t doing an ethnography of police, and she presented this not an an insight into the subjective understandings of police, but as part of her description of the environment in which her subjects, who weren’t police, lived. That’s not the same thing as showing me what’s on the mind of someone in the culture she’s studying.

    • Justaguy

      It doesn’t really matter. Ethnography involves doing first hand research on large, complex social institutions about which our knowledge is necessarily partial and imperfect. One way to deal with this is to ground everything in first hand observations, and link every claim to your source for that claim.

      • joe from Lowell

        But, again, she wasn’t doing an ethnography of police.

      • Robert M.

        Again, that doesn’t mean you need to report those claims uncritically. Goffman could have asked any member of the hospital staff whether the practice she describes is commonplace, for instance.

        I don’t work in the same branch of social science as she does, but anyone in my field would take a skeptical look at any claim with only a single source unless it was evident there was no other feasible source for triangulation. People lie, after all.

        But, accepting arguendo that Goffman is a faithful reporter, there’s no indication that she made any effort to verify the officer’s claim. I don’t see any other source–no one from either the hospital or the community backs up the officer’s description. (She does discuss other arrests at hospitals, but again assuming they actually occurred, there are other plausible explanations that don’t involve trolling visitor logs for outstanding arrest orders.)

        • Justaguy

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve been discussing a point that arises in a single sentence in a 200+ page book. Sure, if it were central to her argument, she would definitely need to have multiple sources. Is it central to her argument?

      • Crusty

        You’re coming pretty close to being deliberately obtuse on this point.

        From studying the x people of the y jungle, I learned that the moon is made of green cheese.

        From studying the x people of the y jungle, I learned that they believe the moon is made of green cheese.

        See the difference?

        • Justaguy

          Goffman’s construction in the passage is closer to “Bob described a childhood filled with violence, where he was frequently assaulted by neighborhood gangs.”

          That is a straightforward account of what Bob said.

          If I’m reading an ethnography that says “Someone said x” and it doesn’t go on to present evidence that confirms or contradicts that statement I take that to mean that someone said x, and the author either couldn’t or didn’t find evidence to confirm or contradict it.

          How is that obtuse?

  • NotALawyer

    Do hospitals have visitor lists? I have never lived in a big city but I have visited people in hospitals in several places, including Cleveland and Denver, which are at least not small towns. The procedure has always been
    Me: “I’m here to visit Jane Doe”
    Helpful Person: “She’s in room 123, it’s down that hall”
    Me: “Thanks”
    Even when access was restricted due to a patient with a very weak immune system, I was just informed of procedures, no one recorded my name.
    Do I just have to get out more?

    • It varies. Nurseries are pretty restrictive and often keep visitor logs.

    • Warren Terra

      This got covered in a previous Goffman thread. Some hospitals require visitors to sign in, and apparently maternity wards are often extremely strict about this.

      • rea

        And of course, this could be an angle for investigation. Do inner city Philadelphia hospitals enforce visitor sign-in requirements? I don’t think I’ve ever been required to sign in as a hospital visitor, but some people have reported otherwise.

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