Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Mole People by Jennifer Toth


Jennifer Toth documents several trips down into the tunnels beneath New York City as she immerses herself into the lives of the "Mole People". Her ethnography on the mole people covers mostly qualitative data on the culture as opposed to quantitative. She describes the living conditions of various underground tunnels throughout New York City in addition to describing in great detail the individual people she encountered. Toth addresses the different reasons people are forced underground and discovers that many do not even wish to return to the surface. Women, men, children, runaways, drug addicts, and gangs are all among the many different kinds of people she interviews and comes in contact with during her study.

This book was very beneficial to the ethnography I later did on the culture of open-mic events. The qualitative data she collected gave me a good example to follow in collecting the qualitative data for my ethnography. As a computer scientist the qualitative approach was very informative since we are mostly exposed to a more quantitative approach when collecting data. Overall I felt the book was a good and easy read. At times I felt it got side-tracked in talking about tunnels of different cities and it felt like Toth glossed over some of the dangerous situations she was thrown into and didn't go into enough detail on the fear she must have felt. Even though it was an ethnography and she should be separated from the culture, I feel describing what she was feeling would paint a better picture of the situation and event to the reader to better understand the culture.


  1. I agree with your thoughts on her being involved. For an ethnography, she was more involved that she should have been, whether she wanted to or not. If she just threw in the towel and turned it into a documentary instead, it would have been a lot more interesting.

  2. I thought it was a wonderful read and the knowledge she gave was first hand. I enjoyed learning of something so off beat, actually came upon this book at a garage sale and was so happy I did, really opeaned my eyes to a whole other world were people live and exsist.