Crossing through yards : narratives of boundaries in East Austin




Steiner, Audrey Moya

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This study examines what individuals of limited pecuniary resources in an urban society have to say about how they conceive of or interact with family, neighborhood, city, and society at large, as well as what some of the material and metaphorical boundaries are they meet, and how these function. The narratives they tell delineate ways, directly or indirectly, the consultants attempt to make sense of their lives, and explicate certain of their intertanglements with and perspectives on boundaries they encounter. When boundaries are placed, according to their characteristics, on a soft to hard continuum, an opening presents itself, signaled by specific, identifiable components, to reveal the constructions of empowerment and disenfranchisement that lie behind some seemingly unbreachable barriers. The consultants for this paper tell of skills and creativity they use to re-frame, ignore, cross, or otherwise get around many prevalent constrictive boundaries in order to conduct fulfilling lives. Since much of the success of ethnography, particularly that based on participant observation, hinges on capabilities to cross boundaries in order to understand different communities, the consultants' knowledge of ways to contend with boundaries can be applied productively to anthropological investigations.




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