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Reproducing Misfortune through Mess

Reproducing Misfortune through Mess

(p.95) Chapter 4 Reproducing Misfortune through Mess
Raised Up Down Yonder
Angela McMillan Howell
University Press of Mississippi

This chapter focuses on “mess,” a local linguistic and cultural metaphor associated with black youth of Hamilton, Alabama. Mess is more than just a novel indigenous term; it also helped to preserve the status quo and to shape adolescents’ emergent identities. As an oppositional culture of overcoming negativity, mess emerged as a means for young people to view their lives. This chapter redefines mess and “messy” in accordance with the meanings assigned to them in Hamilton and specifically by Hamilton’s adolescents. It then explores the reproductive quality of mess by invoking cultural production theory, an outgrowth of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s work, and its intersection with anthropologist Victor Turner’s stages of social drama to tell the story of the Jay Ellis School’s football team. It concludes that mess is a metaphor that impacts life in Hamilton on a daily basis and is used to explain the nonsense that takes place in the community.

Keywords:   mess, black youth, Hamilton, Alabama, cultural production, Pierre Bourdieu, Victor Turner, social drama, Jay Ellis School, football team

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