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Sociology: Events


Chicago 1950 - Another Look

Chicago 1950 - Another Look
Speaker: Howard Becker # author of Outsiders, Art Worlds and other sociological works; Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
27th Nov 2014 13:00 - 27th Nov 2014 14:30
George Square Lecture Theatre

The 2014 Erving Goffman Memorial Lecture, will be delivered in November by Professor Howard Becker, a stellar figure in sociology.

The title of his lecture is ‘Chicago, 1950, Another Look’, which will be about his and Goffman’s time at the Chicago Sociology.

Erving Goffman Memorial Lecture

More About the Speaker

Professor Howard S. Becker is a giant among sociologists, equally embraced by social anthropology. His published work is known and loved in many other disciplines including criminology, social psychology and music. He was a competent jazz musician when he started graduate school in Chicago in 1946. He used the bands and clubs he played in as the basis for his distinctive ethnographic analyses of work life, typical of what became known as the “Chicago school.” There are many stands to his work: a ground breaking contribution to the theory of deviance, uniquely sociological formulations in the study of the arts, and major analytic ideas about the craft of doing social science.  His text Writing for Social Scientists has taught generations of students to stop worrying and get on with it. A stream of journal articles brought new insights to old debates around methods of data collection and analysis. He pioneered in the use of photography as a sociological research tool. A third line of work analyzed learning and socialisation, based on research in schools, universities and professional training centers. He has presented all this with a famous generosity toward students, while remaining at the leading edge of the discipline for more than five decades.

He received the American Sociological Association’s Award for a Career of Distinguished Scholarship, and the George Herbert Mead Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. He is active internationally and has frequently collaborated with scholars in France and Brazil. 

More About the Lecture

The University of Chicago Sociology Department in the late 1940’s and early ‘50s is now seen by some as the birthplace of something called “The Second Chicago School,” a dedicated group of scholars united under the twin flags of a theory called “symbolic interactionism” and a method called “ethnography.” This facile summary hides a much more complicated reality, in which young researchers in the large post-WWII generation found themselves thrown together in a crowded milieu in which they taught themselves and each other as well as being instructed by “giants” like Everett C. Hughes and Herbert Blumer.

In fact, the two hundred or so students of the time exhibited every conceivable combination of theoretical and methodological position imaginable, and took their inspiration from a much wider selection of professorial models. No two of us were just alike, even though we might have assembled in the seminar of Hughes or in the offices of the National Opinion Research center. And those two groups, among among many others, displayed great variety. Goffman was more of a “positivist” than people give him credit for, and so quantitative researchers as Albert J. Reiss, Stanley Reiss or James Short were accustomed to thinking in ways congenial to what is now seen as an oppositional “qualitative” point of view. Goffman’s respect for carefully gathered detail reveals the depth of his commitment to a much broader view of sociology and its work than any notion of a “school” can contain.

Erving Goffman Placeholder