Date of Graduation

8-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Sociology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Sociology and Criminal Justice

Advisor

Brandon Jackson

Committee Member

Juan Bustamante

Second Committee Member

Lori Holyfield

Abstract

Based on over 60 informal interviews conducted at two public basketball courts, this study utilizes grounded theory to trace class- and race-based differences in the social interactions occurring at both parks. By comparing social interactions between a white, middle class basketball court, and a black, lower class basketball court, I argue that social engagement is not be declining for all segments of society as some theorists suggest. Moreover, I argue that the relationships forged at the basketball court in a predominantly black, working-class neighborhood prove to be more meaningful and have deeper benefits than those forged at a basketball court in a white, middle-class neighborhood. I show that public places serve as a source of social status for participants of pick-up basketball and that social status stemming from pick-up basketball varies in importance based on the socioeconomic status of the participants. Further, I contend that public places in low-income neighborhoods can serve as a vehicle for establishing social networks in the surrounding community, affirming and maintaining status, and realizing personal fulfillment.

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