Without positing a simple-minded connection, Not Hollywood (2013) argues that taste is linked to a particular class background

I have previously posted several items about Not Hollywood (2013). This post discusses these and other posts.

Toronto Public Library resources

I came across Sherry B. Ortner’s work when I was reading The Hidden Life of Girls (2006), a linguistic anthropology study of cliques of popular girls in American schools. The author of the latter study is Marjorie Harness Goodwin, who has spent several decades researching cliques in schools across the United States.

Had I not been reading Goodwin, I would not have learned about Ortner. They are both impressive researchers and writers.

I became interested in cliques when I heard a story, during an early stage of planning for the Malcolm Campbell High School 60s Reunion & Celebration of the 60s. The story concerns the fact that when high school students get together even many decades later, for reunions, the cliques that were originally in place will still be there.

Cliques along with inequality are a fact of life

The reference to a past high school reunion led to a discussion about the fact that cliques are a fact of life. That is a view that has been shared with me in the past; it’s a view that I agree with.

I don’t assign a value to cliques, by way of saying “Cliques are great,” or “Cliques are bad.” They’re a part of life, and warrant close, high-quality academic study. At times, the consequences of their existence need to be dealt with, as in the case of bullying that occurs as a concomitant of the existence of cliques.

Cliques occur not only in schools but also in workplaces and social settings. Although it’s outside of the scope of this post, good-quality research about cliques involving adults is also of value and warrants support.

I also think it’s a great thing if a reunion does more than celebrate or reinforce the existence of cliques. For our MCHS 60s Reunion, which will take place at Old Mill Toronto on Oct. 17, 2015, we have adopted an approach that seeks to welcome everybody. We seek to ensure that we have an inclusive event at which every person feels welcome and at home.

Getting people to say yes

How did I learn about Goodwin’s research? I did a search for “Cliques” at the Toronto Public Library website and located a wide range of studies that address this interesting topic. Among the studies is The Hidden Life of Girls (2006).

The following post is the overview that has prompted me to write the above-noted comments:

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

Ethnographic movie-making

I mention ethnographic movie-making because video recordings are a great way to conduct research about cliques.

That is, Ortner’s 2013 ethnographic study has as its subject the independent (Not Hollywood) movie industry. In contrast, Goodwin’s 2006 study is about cliques, but the research methodology is founded upon video recordings of cliques of schoolgirls at play. That is what I mean by ethnographic movie-making.

The concept of agency

Both Ortner (2013) and Goodwin (2006) are concerned with the concept of agency – of having self-confidence, of getting things done, of getting people to say yes.

One of the features of cliques is that they are capable of engaging in what Goodwin calls “political agency.”

That is to say: Popular girls who are capable of mobilizing the resources to engage in bullying are also capable of mobilizing the resources to enable girls to get equal access to soccer fields at public schools.

The latter is a form of agency that warrants our support.

Independent mobilization of resources

The independent mobilization of resources, by the girls in one of Goodwin’s studies, to enable girls at a school to get fair treatment in the use of school sports facilities is an illustrative example of agency from The Hidden Life of Girls.

That demonstration of agency – along with a focus on the value of using video recording as a key element of ethnographic research – is a key message at the following post:

Research using video recordings can gather more information about bullying than is the case with interviews and surveys

Goodwin also argues that when assumptions are made about how girls behave in groups, as contrasted to how boys behave in groups, it’s helpful to ask: “Are the assumptions based on evidence?” And: “If the assumptions are not based on evidence, why are they made?”:

Marjorie Harness Goodwin (2006) argues that more longitudinal studies are needed regarding gender differences in bullying

Agency exercise by independent film producers

Ortner discusses how value is created in independent filmmaking. Her discussion underlines the key role of independent producers, a large proportion of whom have acquired an elite education associated with a particular class background. As the link in the previous sentence indicates, the role of class and status in the history of the British empire comes to mind. The following post introduces the topic of agency as it related to class:

Not Hollywood (2013) focuses upon the production of value in independent filmmaking

The topic is addressed in additional detail at this post:

Sherry B. Ortner adopts a neoliberal framework to address the role of producers in independent filmmaking

Taste is a critical element ensuring the success of independent film productions

In discussing what makes for a good/great independent producer, Ortner argues that the taste acquired in the course of an elite education is a key element. She notes that one cannot argue that a “simple-minded” connection exists between class and taste, but she does underline that such a connection exists, and is a key ingredient in ensuring the success of an independent film production. That discussion accounts for the title that I’ve chose for this post.

The role of inequality in everyday life

Also of interest is a Nov. 13, 2014 Foreign Policy article entitled: Is inequality a bigger threat that the  Islamic State?

The above-noted article serves to place Goodwin’s work, and Ortner’s work, into one of the many possible contexts into which it can be placed.

Also of interest, regarding such contexts, is A Nov. 20, 2014 CBC article entitled: “Global graft, corruption a bigger scourge than terrorism: Anti-corruption protests growing all over the world, as are legislative crackdowns.”


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

A Feb. 24, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Privately educated elite continues to take top jobs, finds survey: Privately schooled people still dominate law, politics, medicine and journalism despite signs of progress, says Sutton Trust.”


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