The aim of this chapter is to consider the importance of the Chicago School in urban sociology today, both theoretically and methodologically. I will start by showing some…
The aim of this chapter is to consider the importance of the Chicago School in urban sociology today, both theoretically and methodologically. I will start by showing some indicators and reflections on its importance in American urban sociology. I will then focus on how this heritage has been used and adapted in Italy. In particular, I will present some theoretical and empirical studies implemented in the Bologna metropolitan area by a group of sociologists who, in the Italian context are probably using the Chicago School tools to study urban change and urban problems most explicitly. My contribution is based on bibliographic research carried out both in Italy and in the United States, as well as on some interviews conducted with American urban sociologists. The main findings show the persistent importance of several key elements of the Chicago School, both in Italy and in the United States: the general theoretical approach (space and place affect people), some specific concepts (community, neighborhood, and natural area), and methodology (combination of qualitative and quantitative tools).
As a method in sociology, urban ethnography is rather straightforward: it conducts participant observation in cities. In essence, urban ethnographers study place, and yet…
As a method in sociology, urban ethnography is rather straightforward: it conducts participant observation in cities. In essence, urban ethnographers study place, and yet how place is portrayed is too often absent from ethnographic descriptions. Indeed, place is always present in the lives of people, but it becomes difficult to understand how place works in an ethnographic context. To reflect upon this puzzle, the following text offers a language for how we may make better sense of place as urban ethnographers and the role of place as a central actor in urban life. By revisiting classic and current ethnographies, we consider how place is constructed as an object of analysis, reflective of social phenomenon occurring within a city. Further, in identifying six tensions (in/out, order/disorder, public/private, past/present, gemeinschaft/gesellschaft, and discrete/diffuse), we demonstrate how descriptions of place are either present or absent in these ethnographies. To understand these tensions as they depict place, we maintain, it is to better understand how place is represented within ethnographies claiming to be urban. In conclusion, we present future directions for urban place-based ethnography that may offer more robust interpretations of place and the people who inhabit it.
Classic urban ethnography has often viewed urbanization and the urban condition as pathological and the city as disorganized, with urban areas producing problems to be solved through the managerial control of urban space. This chapter presents an alternative view, introducing an Interaction Order approach within urban ethnography. This way of studying culture builds on the work of Emile Durkheim (1893), W. E. B. Du Bois (1903), Harold Garfinkel (1967), Erving Goffman (1983), and Anne Rawls (1987). Interaction Orders are shared rules and expectations that members of a group use to coordinate their daily social relations and sense-making, which take the form of taken-for-granted practices that are specific to a place and its circumstances. The power of this social order, which is constructed by the interactions among participants themselves, renders outsiders’ interventions counterproductive. Understanding local interaction orders enables ethnographers to interpret problems differently and imagine solutions that work with local culture.
We examine what makes urban ethnography unique as a sociological subfield and how to convey this method to aspiring urban ethnographers. As a qualitative research…
We examine what makes urban ethnography unique as a sociological subfield and how to convey this method to aspiring urban ethnographers. As a qualitative research approach, methodological sensibilities about observing, sampling, and data analysis cross boundaries and transcend the urban setting. We suggest a short observational exercise of checking out in a grocery store to stimulate the ethnographic imagination. Next, we turn to three ways to cultivate an ethnographic eye toward the urban: walking the city, paying attention to interactions and institutions, and examining communities and networks. We end with an appeal to engaging with a community of inquiry.
This study applies theoretical perspectives from urban, environmental, and organization studies to examine if “smart growth” represents an ecological restructuring of the…
This study applies theoretical perspectives from urban, environmental, and organization studies to examine if “smart growth” represents an ecological restructuring of the political economy of conventional urban development, long theorized as a “growth machine” (Molotch, H. (1976) The city as growth machine: Toward a political economy of place. American Journal of Sociology, 82, 309–332; Logan & Molotch, 2007); the purpose is to determine if there is a “smart growth machine.”
Nine smart growth projects (SGPs) in four cities in California and Oregon were identified and semistructured interviews were held with the respective developers, architects, and civic officials involved in their implementation process. Comparative, descriptive, and grounded approaches were used to generate themes from interviews and other data sources.
The findings suggest that an ecological modernization of urban political economy occurs through the coordination of entrepreneurial action, technical expertise, and “smart” regulation. Individual and institutional entrepreneurs shift the organizational field of urban development. Technical expertise is needed to make projects sustainable and financially feasible. Finally, a “smart” regulatory framework that balances regulations and incentives is needed to forge cooperative relationships between local governments and developers. This constellation of actors and institutions represents a smart growth machine.
The author questions whether urban growth can become “smart” using an original study of nine SGPs in four cities across California and Oregon.
World population is expected to increase by some 2.6 billion from 6.9 billion in 2010 to more than 9.5 billion by mid-century. Most of this population increase will occur in the developing nations, and most of this increase will be absorbed in the rapidly expanding metropolitan regions of these countries – the so-called megacities of the twenty-first century (United Nations, 2009). And as urban development accelerates across the globe, most of the population increase will occur in the emerging megacities and other metropolitan areas in Africa, Asia and South America. Because the original areas of settlement in the city centre have long been established, much of the population increase in these metropolitan regions will occur in the suburban areas of cities in the Global South – areas of favelas and shanty towns alongside earlier middle-class and upper-class suburbs, newly planned gated communities and garden suburbs, and indigenous models of suburban growth that will emerge in the next century.