Amazon.com Review Representations of the gay community have come a long way since the bitchy banter of The Boys in the Band. In Invincible Communities, Peter M. Nardi makes it clear how powerfully supportive and influential friends can be in the lives of gay men. 'Over and over again,' notes Nardi, 'I hear and continue to be told a central narrative of gay men's lives is that of how important their friends are to them, how this 'rich network of friends' is like a family, how sex has been a dimension of their earlier friendships with some of their friends, and how, for some, their friends mean more and last longer than do their romantic relationships.' Basing his study on 30 interviews and the results from a questionnaire survey of 161 gay men, Nardi explores the ways masculinity is organized and expressed in contemporary America. Interestingly, in discussing 'Friendship as Kinship,' Nardi challenges the gay commonplace that we create 'families of choice' through our friendships with other gay people. Suggesting that the metaphor of friends-as-family is a 'strongly American concept,' an adaptation to a conservative political culture, he points out the 'gay-bi boom' has revalorized the nuclear family unit, albeit with same-sex parents and often the involvement of interested third parties: donors, ex-partners, coparents. Part history, part sociology, Nardi's study will interest psychologists, activists, and students of gay culture. Read more From Publishers Weekly Exploring what Hannah Arendt called 'the political relevance of friendship,' Nardi, a professor of sociology at Claremont College, argues that a tremendous amount of gay political organizing emerges from the bonds between gay men. Although he contends that gay male friendships are 'poorly understood' and 'not easily explained,' he claims that friendship is the primary community institution for urban gay men. In addition to a review of the existing literature of male friendship (from Aristotle and Cicero to current popular and scholarly work), Nardi offers his own research findings, based on 161 questionnaires and 30 face-to-face interviews. While many of his conclusions seem like obvious common sense (such as his claim that many gay men choose not to have sex with their friends for fear of losing the friendship), he also offers some provocative flashes of insight (for example, that gay men's social circles have become less diverse in terms of class and race as political groups and social venues have proliferated and become more specialized). While Nardi attempts a blend of sociology and cultural history, overall, the latter element is more successful; when he lets his subjects speak, the book vibrates with lived experience. In particular, his discussions of the legal ramifications of gay men creating 'family' out of friendships (e.g., friends do not have the legal rights to visit the critically ill in a hospital) are important contributions to the growing literature of gay sociology. (July) Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more
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