The location of the actual “Tally’s Corner” is revealed

Tally’s Corner is a classic ethnographic work:

It’s a remarkable book, an academic work – it grew out of Liebow’s doctoral thesis – that isn’t dry or boring. It’s an in-depth look at a group of men who routinely hung out on a Washington street corner in the early 1960s. These are poor men, flawed men, unemployed and underemployed men. But they are treated with respect. And although Liebow used pseudonyms, giving the men such names as Tally, Sea Cat, Richard and Leroy, they come across as flesh-and-blood individuals. When “Tally’s Corner” was published in 1967, the New York Times called it “a valuable and even surprising triumph.” The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) called it “nothing short of brilliant.”…

“Tally’s Corner” remains in print, has been translated into multiple languages, and has sold more than a million copies, an amazing feat for an anthropological text.

But there has been some confusion over the years about where exactly Elliott Liebow interacted with the men who were the focus of his study:

According to many sources, it was Ninth and P streets NW. Except Answer Man happens to know it wasn’t…

Liebow picked a location that would be easy to get to from his office and his home in Brookland: 11th and M streets NW in Shaw, a corner that had a carryout, liquor store, dry cleaner and shoe-repair shop. This is the first time the exact location has been revealed. “I feel free to say that because it’s no longer that street corner,” Harriet told Answer Man. “The carryout’s gone. That whole world is gone from that street corner.

It is often the case that ethnographic works conceal the location of the study as well as the identity of the participants. And it sounds like the location was only revealed now because the area has changed so much that no individuals or businesses could be identified at that corner.

I’ve had discussions with people about the exact location of ethnographic works, as if the location was some mystery that needed to be solved. The authors sometimes do a better job to conceal the location that others – it can often take quite a consistent effort. I feel like I have read some studies that try to use vague terms like “a liberal-arts college in the Midwest” but then later give enough clues (unintentionally?) for the reader to figure it out.

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