English Issue > 2008

An Annual English Selection - 2008 - 49 - Supplement

Maurice Halbwachs and Chicago Sociologists

Christian TOPALOV



pp. 187-214


This article examines how Maurice Halbwachs circulated among academic networks in Chicago during his Fall 1930 visiting professorship ; specifically, his interactions with sociologists. It is based on scholarly studies he wrote on his return, family correspondence, and Halbwachs’ “Lettres des États-Unis”, published anonymously in a daily newspaper, the Progrès de Lyon. The Durkheimian sociologist was invited to Chicago by the sociologist William F. Ogburn in an attempt to promote quantitative research in the department, which at the time was sharply divided between “case studiers” and “statisticians”. The year 1930 was precisely the moment the second group won out against the first, in a complete reorientation of Rockefeller Foundation and University of Chicago policy. Halbwachs did not have great esteem for the work being done by Park, Burgess and their students ; their “concrete” and “picturesque” studies were not scientific to his mind, resembling instead the observations of explorers and missionaries, i.e., the raw material that real scholars and researchers –ethnologists and sociologists working in university offices– could then analyze. Halbwachs never thought to question this division of labor.



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