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We take reputations for granted. Believing in the bad and the good natures of our notorious or illustrious forebears is part of our shared national heritage. Yet we are largely ignorant of how such reputations came to be, who was instrumental in creating them, and why. Even less have we considered how villains, just as much as heroes, have helped our society define its values. Presenting essays on America's most reviled traitor, its worst president, and its most controversial literary ingénue (Benedict Arnold, Warren G. Harding, and Lolita), among others, sociologist Gary Alan Fine analyzes negative, contested, and subcultural reputations. Difficult Reputations offers eight compelling historical case studies as well as a theoretical introduction situating the complex roles in culture and history that negative reputations play. Arguing the need for understanding real conditions that lead to proposed interpretations, as well as how reputations are given meaning over time, this book marks an important contribution to the sociologies of culture and knowledge.
Learning to argue and persuade in a highly competitive environment is only one aspect of life on a high-school debate team. Teenage debaters also participate in a distinct cultural world--complete with its own jargon and status system--in which they must negotiate complicated relationships with teammates, competitors, coaches, and parents as well as classmates outside the debating circuit. In Gifted Tongues, Gary Alan Fine offers a rich description of this world as a testing ground for both intellectual and emotional development, while seeking to understand adolescents as social actors. Considering the benefits and drawbacks of the debating experience, he also recommends ways of reshaping programs so that more high schools can use them to boost academic performance and foster specific skills in citizenship. Fine analyzes the training of debaters in rapid-fire speech, rules of logical argumentation, and the strategic use of evidence, and how this training instills the core values of such American institutions as law and politics. Debates, however, sometimes veer quickly from fine displays of logic to acts of immaturity--a reflection of the tensions experienced by young people learning to think as adults. Fine contributes to our understanding of teenage years by encouraging us not to view them as a distinct stage of development but rather a time in which young people draw from a toolkit of both childlike and adult behaviors. A well-designed debate program, he concludes, nurtures the intellect while providing a setting in which teens learn to make better behavioral choices, ones that will shape relationships in their personal, professional, and civic lives.
Kitchens takes us into the robust, overheated, backstage world of the contemporary restaurant. In this rich, often surprising portrait of the real lives of kitchen workers, Gary Alan Fine brings their experiences, challenges, and satisfactions to colorful life. A new preface updates this riveting exploration of how restaurants actually work, both individually and as part of a larger culinary culture.
A chess match seems as solitary an endeavor as there is in sports: two minds, on their own, in fierce opposition. In contrast, Gary Alan Fine argues that chess is a social duet: two players in silent dialogue who always take each other into account in their play. Surrounding that one-on-one contest is a community life that can be nearly as dramatic and intense as the across-the-board confrontation. Fine has spent years immersed in the communities of amateur and professional chess players, and with Players and Pawns he takes readers deep inside them, revealing a complex, brilliant, feisty world of commitment and conflict. Opening with a close look at a typical tournament in Atlantic City, Fine carries us from planning and setup through the climactic final day's match-ups between the weekend's top players, introducing us along the way to countless players and their relationships to the game. At tournaments like that one, as well as in locales as diverse as collegiate matches and community chess clubs, players find themselves part of what Fine terms a "soft community," an open, welcoming space built on their shared commitment to the game. Within that community, chess players find both support and challenges, all amid a shared interest in and love of the long-standing traditions of the game, traditions that help chess players build a communal identity. Full of idiosyncratic characters and dramatic gameplay, Players and Pawns is a celebration of the ever-fascinating world of serious chess.
What are boys like? Who is the creature inhabiting the twilight zone between the perils of the Oedipus complex and the Strum und Drang of puberty? In With the Boys, Gary Alan Fine examines the American male preadolescent by studying the world of Little League baseball. Drawings on three years of firsthand observation of five Little Leagues, Fine describes how, through organized sport and its accompanying activities, boys learn to play, work, and generally be "men. "
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