Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Anna Curtis's "Dangerous Masculinity"

Anna Curtis is an associate professor of sociology at The State University of New York at Cortland.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dangerous Masculinity: Fatherhood, Race, and Security Inside America's Prisons, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Dangerous Masculinity is the first page of the conclusion. I spend one of the two paragraphs on this page discussing my final conversation with one of my earliest interviewees, Aeneas. There’s a fairly long quote from him expressing why he thinks it is so difficult to “feel human” in prison. The second paragraph, which bleeds over onto the next page, begins to summarize one of the key arguments of the text: that prison severely limits options to enact masculinity and that correctional officers, prisoners, and the Department of Corrections administration all negotiate what constitutes the uniform and ubiquitous “dangerous masculinity” of the prisoner. Because the paragraph is incomplete, a reader would not get to the second part of the argument; namely, that the singular version of manhood created and reinforced in prison legitimates denying male prisoners’ access to their families.

The Page 99 test is a bit of a mixed bag for Dangerous Masculinity. I do begin to discuss one of the central arguments of the book, but don’t quite manage to finish it. Most of the text of page 99 focuses on a single prisoner and absent the context of the rest of the book, the long quote tells a reader very little.

And yet, page 99 is the start of a set of pages that outline the book fairly clearly. If a reader could read all the way to page 103, they would have a very clear picture of what the book was about. On page 100, I briefly discuss how masculinity influences (and is incorporated into) the shape of dangerous masculinity. I also discuss the ways that the category of “prisoner” is racialized even for white prisoners. Pages 101-103 provide a paragraph summary of each of the chapters.

Additionally, page 99 provides the reader with a pretty clear example of my writing style and the data set. I spent a lot of time infusing the text with the language patterns I use when I teach (minus the curse words) because I wanted this book to be accessible to undergraduates. I conducted an ethnography and one strength of this method is that a researcher can provide extended quotes and discussions of individual people’s experiences in a larger context in order to examine patterns and analyze social practices and norms. Page 99 of my book highlights these strengths.
Learn more about Dangerous Masculinity at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue