The Study of Man: American Realities and Sociological Methods:
New York's Puerto Ricans
BETWEEN them, the social scientists and the business market “researchers” have bred a cultural behemoth: the interminable questionnaire. Merely to read the hundred-odd, several-barreled queries posed to each victim of this study* induces an overpowering fatigue. The idea seems to be that if you corner your subjects, formalize their responses, and limit yourself to the ascetic role of a calculating machine, you thereby attain a shorthand, shortcut knowledge which is somehow more authentic than the old-fashioned responses of the senses and the mind. This technique of pigeon-hole sociology, aside from its general cultural condescension and invasion of privacy, strikes me as particularly inappropriate to those Puerto Ricans in Harlem whom I have got to know in the course of a subsidiary kind of social work. They are the most open, hospitable, and unsuspicious people I have encountered in a city where these qualities have become increasingly rare. To subject them arbitrarily to this battery of questions is to take advantage of their easy availability.
About the Author