Time to 12:30 pm Add to Calendar 2017-11-08 09:00:00 2017-11-08 12:30:00 12th Annual De Jong Lecture in Social Demography Nittany Lion Inn, Boardroom, University Park, PA Population Research Institute css7@psu.edu America/New_York public
Location Nittany Lion Inn, Boardroom, University Park, PA
Photo of Linda Burton with long black hair and white and orange dress.

When ethnography comes home to roost: Andre, the life course, and my family’s intervention

Linda M. Burton, PhD, James B. Duke Professor of Sociology and Director,

Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University

In this presentation, I recount a complex case study of 7-year-old Andre, a bi-racial respondent, whose family network I have followed in a 30-year ethnographic study of the family life course, race, and poverty in an isolated small town in Pennsylvania. I chronicle the ways in which structural and contextual factors including geographic isolation, unemployment, class inequality, racism, colorism, inter-racial childbearing, violence, and a growing drug economy reached inside and moved through generations of Andre’s family and launched him on a precarious pathway of childhood adultification characterized by a misappropriated racial identity. In the best of situations, a healthy racial identity can buffer children from the impact of continuous streams of trauma—trauma that Andre knows all too well.

Andre’s case study is particularly insightful in that through a set of serendipitous circumstances one of my adult daughters became Andre’s and his 2-year old sister’s guardian. With my daughter as the primary co-parent, Andre and his sister are now being raised by her, my adult son, my other two adult daughters, my son-in-law and me. It is indeed a family affair. In conveying Andre’s story, I describe how myriad familial and contextual factors initially stunted the development of his racial identity in ways that compromised the “color advantage” for social mobility his biological parents believed they had given him via inter-racial mating. I also discuss how a contextually-embedded sense of fatalism and childhood adultification gave rise to what could have become a terminal life course trajectory for Andre. Through it all, Andre has triumphed, and in his new living situation he teaches my family every day about the value of caring for others, the utility of humanist ethnography, and that sometimes we are beckoned to cross standard research boundaries to redirect the life course of a child. Certain dire circumstances in children’s lives demand that we answer that call.

Linda Burton was Professor of Sociology and Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State from 1993 to 2006. She was also Director of Penn State’s Center for Human Development and Family Research in Diverse Contexts from 1998 to 2006.


Jenifer Bratter, PhD, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Sociology, Rice University

Dawn Witherspoon, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Penn State

Agenda for Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017:

8:30    Check-in; Coffee available

9:00    Dr. Linda Burton

10:10  Dr. Jenifer Bratter

10:35  Dr. Dawn Witherspoon

11:00  Open discussion

11:45-12:30 Reception for all attendees

The Lecture is free and open to everyone. Please register online.

Lecture Sponsors:

The De Jong Lecture in Social Demography is supported by the Gordon F. and Caroline M. De Jong Lectureship in Social Demography Endowment, administered jointly and supplemented by the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Institute at Penn State.

Gordon F. De Jong is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Demography, former Director of the Graduate Program in Demography, and Senior Scientist Emeritus with the Population Research Institute at Penn State.

Caroline M. De Jong, a former middle school teacher, has been involved in numerous community, church, and university-related organizations including the American Association of University Women, Stay-and-Play Nursery School, Presbyterian Women, and the Centre County Board of Elections.

Contact Person Carolyn Scott
Contact Email css7@psu.edu
Event Type