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4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,108 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
An exceptional ethnography marked by clarity and candor, Sidewalk takes us into the socio-cultural environment of those who, though often seen as threatening or unseemly, work day after day on "the blocks" of one of New York's most diverse neighborhoods. Sociologist Duneier, author of Slim's Table, offers an accessible and compelling group portrait of several poor black me ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 20th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1999)
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Patrick Sprunger
Apr 09, 2010 Patrick Sprunger rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Patrick by: A co-worker
There are a lot of ideas advanced in Sidewalk, but let me focus on the ones that added to my own observations about the homeless and race/class stratification in the urban environment.

One of my friends operated a club at the boundary of our city's "bohemian" entertainment district and a major public housing project. I hung out and helped in various ways during the mid 2000s (when I was in my mid-twenties). In the process, I observed a lot of informal relationships between the business owners and
May 19, 2008 Sarahfina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!
I think Sidewalk should be required reading for everyone. Duneier writes a classic ethnology of the sidewalk vendors in New York City. The book is alternately fascinating, touching, funny, and thought-provoking.
Duneier uncovers and explores the dignity of the homeless. He doesn't shy away from issues either. There is an entire chapter on how the unhoused men he embeds himself with manage to go to the bathroom (or rather urinate and deficate, as a bathroom is a luxury not always available).
He al
Aug 19, 2008 Ramonita rated it liked it
This was a pretty cool book...
Mar 05, 2009 Jaime rated it really liked it
I'm reading this right now for my self & society class. It's really interesting. It's about the social structure of homeless vendors on the street. Once you get past the profanity, it shows a side of American culture that many people don't see.
Jan 09, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an amazing book -- a sociological look into a bit of New York street life. Just wonderful.
Ms. Rocket Pie
Dec 17, 2008 Ms. Rocket Pie rated it it was amazing
Mitchell Duneier’s Sidewalk explores the lives and invisible structures that emerge under the observation of street life on 6th Ave and Greenwich. Duneier examines and records through a sociological lens that attempts to understand the deviance, order and humanity underlying life on the sidewalk. The understanding that “The unchecked panhandler, is in effect, the first broken window,” dominates common interpretations of crime by passer-bys, business owners, legislators and law enforcers. Sidewal ...more
Feb 01, 2012 Jill rated it liked it
Loic Wacquant, a sociology professor at Berkeley wrote a scathing review of Sidewalk in the American Journal of Sociology, accusing Duneier of sentimentality, and painting an overly sympathetic portrait of the street vendors in Greenwich Village via "three strategies of selective data collection, interpretation and presentation: disconnecting, censoring and skewing." I felt that Wacquant missed the point at times. What Duneier tries to do in Sidewalk is to show us another side of one of the marg ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Seth rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013

A white, Jewish college professor infiltrates the black, predominately Muslim world of the New York city street vendor. The clash of cultures is obvious from page one, but that doesn’t lessen the books sociological value. Duneier has a lot of respect for his subjects, and it really shines through in the pages. Rather than focusing on the dry statistics that so often plague your sociology 101 reading syllabus, he instead tells about the relationship he formed with these people, how they came to
Feb 15, 2008 Sumeyya rated it it was amazing
This book is about street vendors in New York city's Greenwich Village: some who are durg addicts, panhandlers, homeless(or were at some point), etc, in other words, those on the outer crust of society. The book explores their day to day lives, social structure (which, surprisingly, you find is highly refined), relationships, and work. Although it is a textbook, Dunier does an amazing job making it readable to the public... it actually reads much like a novel and you want to find out what happen ...more
Frank Stein
Mar 30, 2009 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing


A sociologist hangs out with the homeless book dealers on 6th avenue in NYC and discovers an incredibly complex economy and society.

For instance, the sidewalk booksellers will often pay one homeless man (a "place holder") up to forty dollars a night to hold the best places for the next day's sales by sleeping on the sidewalk. In the morning the bookseller will then pay another homeless man (a "mover") to go fetch his books from a "storage provider," either a man sleeping in the subway or
Apr 26, 2007 Samuel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who care
Shelves: social-sciences
This is one of the best sociological studies I've read. It's all about people selling printed materials on a sidewalk in Greenwich Village in New York. At some point, New York passed a city ordinance which lifted restrictions against selling printed material on the street. This opened the door to an underground economy of ad hoc booksellers. There are many different kinds of printed matter sellers, ranging from those who dig through bookstore dumpsters for discarded high priced magazines to thos ...more
Jun 10, 2012 Trevor rated it really liked it
This was a different but interesting book that consisted of different daily life stories of NYC homeless people. What I liked about this book was that it didn't just include the stereotypical bum who smells and begs for money. It included stories from street venders, messengers and some unemployed people who talk about all of the challenges of being homeless. There was one person who would go around to different businesses offering to deliver their products on a bike for free, and making money o ...more
Jul 14, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing
Despite the intellectual weight and academic heft, Sidewalk is real page-turner, reading more like a great novel than sub-cultural examination. Brilliant piece of urban reportage in which Sociologist Duneier examines the work and life of Greenwich Village's sidewalk vendors, and the larger city culture that, at times, surprisingly, envelops and supports them, but, more often, disregards or criminalizes them.

The men portrayed in the book are, at any given time, intelligent, articulate, and digni
Apr 26, 2012 Miranda rated it really liked it
An excellent study of people whose lives revolve around the sidewalks of Greenwich Village through being unhoused and living there, or working there in various ways. Duneier goes far beyond making simple judgements about them and this book is testimony to the relationships he built up with his subject matter. I loved the inclusion of the afterword from one of the street vendors, and there was a lovely mix of personal stories and human interaction coupled with analysis of how social and economic ...more
I had to read this book as part of my participation in a week-long community service program for my school. One of the events of the program will be a discussion of Sidewalk with faculty and staff, and since Mitchell Duneier is a professor at my school, I think he might be there. If so, that'll be pretty cool!

Sidewalk examines the lives of several vendors, panhandlers, and scavengers in Greenwich Village - mostly poor, homeless, black men - and the social, political, and economic forces that sur
Aug 04, 2013 Bruce rated it really liked it
The author, Michael Duneier, is currently a professor of sociology at Princeton. He was one of the first at Princeton to give a MOOC course (Introduction to Sociology), which was very well received. The book is a fascinating portrayal of the life of book and magazine street vendors (predominately African-American males) in New York's Greenwich Village. He spares no detail, so that some of the scenes and language are gross; but the overall picture he paints is thought provoking. His basic conclus ...more
Jul 20, 2016 Doris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read for my senior seminar in sociology.

Duneier conducts a really interesting ethnography of street vendors in Greenwich Village in the '90s, examining the social forces that brought these poor, largely unhoused, black men into the informal street economy of New York City. Because he develops close relationships with these men, he seems a bit biased towards their perspective in discussing their dealings with police offers or female pedestrians, for example. Still, he is certainly very insightful
Anne Schoeneborn
Jul 06, 2013 Anne Schoeneborn rated it really liked it
This book is GREAT, especially for people living in big cities. The author spent years among booksellers, magazine sellers, and others selling items on the sidewalk in one part of Greenwich village and provides a detailed description and analysis of their lives and the sub-culture of the sidewalk. There are a lot of negative assumptions made about the types of people portrayed in this book (especially the homeless)-- and this book did a perfect job delving into the actual lives (and humanity) of ...more
Aug 30, 2011 Justin rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology-books
Great insight into the lives of homeless people in America. It makes me want to go buy books from these homeless people rather than a big chain store. I felt the research and sociological analysis was excellent, and although i was reading this book for a class i greatly enjoyed it. Its good that were able to see things from anouther persons perspective, understanding that these homeless people are still human beings just like us and seeing their lives and histories has changed how ill treat the ...more
Jan 10, 2009 Gloss rated it really liked it
Street book vendors are one of the things I miss most about New York. This book produces a nuanced, moving, and intelligent account of a network of men who make their living selling books like this; participant observation is usually something that sets my teeth on edge and raises my hackles preemptively -- there's little that's more exploitative than visiting the Other and returning with a charming account of His Foreign Ways -- but Duneier is too careful, at once too empathetic and too aware o ...more
Apr 30, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookstore-coop
I loved this book. This is a sociological/anthropological study of the literature vendors in Greenwich Village New York. Some obscure local law, written for a local poet to allow him to be able to sell his work on the street, led to the creation of a culture of used book and magazine vendors who compete for a place to sell on the street. Mitch worked with them on the street for a couple of years. The methodology of the project was great. An example- Mitch read to everyone he wrote about, what he ...more
Darrah Bird
This is a really compelling ethnography. I read this for a class and would read it again. One of the best books I read in grad school. Although the activities and the book itself are a bit dated, it gives a really compelling glance into the worlds of people who belong to "street life". It examines it from a respectful standpoint, and honors their work and lives in a way that makes it accessible to not just students, but readers in general.

I would really recommend this to just about anyone. But
Nov 18, 2008 Aaron rated it liked it
This was not at all my typical reading material, but I had purchased this book at a thrift store a few years ago and it looked fascinating. It is dense, sort of a sociological text book, but it tells an interesting story of a large group of homeless/poor/marginalized Americans trying to make ends meet on the streets of New York by vending written material and panhandling. It was hard, even annoying, to get through all the policy and theory stuff, but the interactions between the people were real ...more
Aug 23, 2008 Julianne rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful ethnographic study and it's highly engaging and works well with students. Mitch is also a very awesome person and incredibly insightful and careful in his research and observations. This book is a great at promoting a better and more complex understanding of the New York homeless--bridging the wide social gap between mainstream society and the seemingly "lazy bums" on the street--by teaching us about their incorporation of labor division and the American work ethic in their side ...more
Reed Hansen
Jun 29, 2016 Reed Hansen rated it really liked it
Everyone has a story. I deeply appreciated hearing about a group of people that I had very little real experience with. Hearing their words and their stories started a flow of thoughts about the challenges these folks thought and my relationship with the groups of sidewalk dwellers I've come across.

Duneier is a straight-forward writer and Sidewalk is very accessible, the stories are related without judgement, and without attempts to diagnose or cure their "plight".
Mar 27, 2007 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Jane Jacobs
Shelves: favorites
This is an excellent look at street vendors in New York City and what they contribute to (and take away from) daily life on the sidewalks. The author spent years interviewing the vendors and sitting at their tables and the accompanying photographs beautifully illustrate the vendors and their experiences. The text at times gets too bogged down in sociological detail for me, but it is the vendors' stories that keep me coming back to this book time and again.
Dec 30, 2010 Reynolds rated it it was amazing
I read this many years ago and then I loaned it to a friend and never saw it again. It's a really well-done, well-written and lived account of the men who sell books and magazines on the sidewalks of Manhattan. It's a sociological study but the language is not at all too dry or academic. Well worth reading if you're interested in urban street life, New York, books, booksellers, the homeless - basically big cities and the human beings which inhabit them.
Caroline Gadonas
Jul 12, 2009 Caroline Gadonas rated it really liked it
I read this book during my Spring '09 semester. It was fantastic; Duneier's ethnographic work on the streets of Greenwich Village is simultaneously heartwarming & heart-breaking. The interactions and relationships he forms with these men and women are truly incredible to behold. Along with his narrative vignettes of daily life on the streets, he uses ethnographic theories about human interaction and relationships to back up his work.
Feb 16, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Visiting New York during my college days, I had often wondered about various street vendors, especially the book peddlers around Columbia and Greenwich Village. Mitchell Duneier decided to enter their world and get to know who they were, where their goods came from, and other questions of sociological interest. This book may be of most interest to New Yorkers, but it is a fascinating look at street culture in the areas Duneier studies.
Dec 21, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
Amazing. The stories are interesting, and he has a great balance of specifics and generalizations. I like how he deals with the issue of exploitation that can easily come up with ethnography (by sharing the proceeds of his book with the subjects) and also the urge or expectation that he'll intervene and help these people (he does, but only to the extent that he can do it while hanging out on the street with them).
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Mitchell Duneier is an American sociologist currently Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and regular Visiting Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, Graduate Center.
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