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Gifting the children: Ritual economy of a community school

Dimensions of Ritual Economy

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1485-0, eISBN: 978-1-84950-546-8

Publication date: 6 May 2008


This chapter explores the “moral meanings” that intersect with economic realities in the context of a Cincinnati community school located in a diverse working-class neighborhood. The focus is on informal support systems for kids that require adults to expend considerable resources on community children. These practices grow out of a ritualized community ethos of “doing whatever it takes.” Work, gifts, food, and housing are all tied to an informal economy embedded in a grassroots social movement that is based on a strong commitment to taking care of community children. Beyond job descriptions, and, in many instances, in spite of them, community people go the extra mile. There is a sense of commitment and morality, tied with notions of doing what is right, and with taking care of community children, broadly conceived as working-class youth. The goal of this agenda is to bring kids up to speed in the face of poor public education and class and race discrimination. From a ritual economy perspective, the community school materializes the values and beliefs of the community and, at the same time, shapes the community's worldview.


Halperin, R.H. (2008), "Gifting the children: Ritual economy of a community school", Christian Wells, E. and McAnany, P.A. (Ed.) Dimensions of Ritual Economy (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 249-266.



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