Producers are energetic people who are really good at getting people to say yes, Sherry B. Ortner notes

I’m really pleased that I learned about Sherry B. Ortner as a result of reading a reference to her work in Marjorie Harness Goodwin’s study, The Hidden Life of Girls (2006).

Among Ortner’s books is New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 (2005). Because it’s one of the few books, that I’m interested in, that is not available at the Toronto Public Library, I’ve bought my own copy.

Ortner notes (in Notes to Chapter 1) that she decided, early on, “not to organize the book simply as a series of life histories” (p. 297). Her approach, instead, is to connect the individual stories, of the Class of ’58 from her own high school, “to some larger historical narrative.” That’s a great way to work with life stories.

I find the book of interest in helping me to understand the life stories, as many that I happen to know, in bits and pieces, of my classmates from the Class of ’63 at Malcolm Campbell High School – and from the 1960s cohort in general, from this particular high school, which opened in the early 1960s and closed in the late 1980s.

Producers are energetic people

Producers and curators are key players in getting things done in the world.

Another book by Ortner is Not Hollywood: Independent Film at the Twilight of the American Dream (2013).

It’s most interesting to read about filmmaking from an ethnographic perspective. Among the topics that both Goodwin and Ortner address is agency.

Goodwin (2006) addresses agency as it relates to cliques and bullying. Ortner in turn addresses agency in the context of American independent film “at the twilight of the American Dream.”

Agency in Ortner’s usage (p. 158) refers to a number of interrelated ideas revolving around self-confidence and the capacity to make things happen. The chapter in question is Chapter 5, “Making Value.”

If you have the opportunity to read Goodwin and Ortner, I recommend them highly.

A note regarding cliques

Marjorie Harness Goodwin uses the concept of cliques in a way that makes the term useful for analytic purposes; it is used in a way that is free of any particular positive or negative valence.

The Hidden Life of Girls (2006) highlights the activities of a clique made up of popular girls at an elementary school, as they interact with other students, and with adults, in a wide range of settings in a school environment, over an extended period of time.

Goodwin cites several authors whose understanding of the characteristics of cliques corresponds with her own understanding of the concept.

She notes that Adler and Adler (1998) describe cliques as “friendship circles whose members tend to identify each other as mutually connected” (Goodwin 2006: 76). The latter authors argue that cliques 1) maintain a hierarchical structure; 2) are dominated by leaders, and 3) are exclusive.

Goodwin also notes that Eder and Parker (1987) assert that cliques include the most popular children, who are most respected by those of their age grade.

She adds that Adler and Adler (1998) argue that cliques in peer groups constitute a culture that is unique in its own right, and that at the same time serves as a “staging ground for future adult behavior.”


A Dec. 23, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “A Brand New World In Which Men Ruled: Instead of narrowing gender gaps, the technology industry created vast new ones for Stanford University’s pioneering class of 1994.”

A Jan. 25, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: “Majority of UK’s most influential had independent school education – survey.”

An April 2, 2015 New Yorker article is entitled: “Playground pain and pleasure.”


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