Reading Tip: ‘The Book That Would Not Die’

Donna Gabaccia reflects on the reception of William Foote Whyte’s famous Street Corner Society at the Migrant Knowledge blog:

William Foote Whyte’s study of Italian immigrants in the North End of Boston was not particularly successful after its release in 1943. In the years after 1970, though, Street Corner Society garnered great success and became, in the words of its author, “the book that would not die.” Paradoxically, specialists in Italian American studies found little to love in the book. Here I argue that a hidden history of gender and ethnic dynamics in the academic production of knowledge can explain the paradox. In the book’s second edition, revised and expanded, Whyte’s ethnographic methods, his penchant for story-telling, and his personal reflections on research provided beginning students in sociology an accessible introduction to qualitative methods in an increasingly quantitative discipline. Specialists, by contrast, saw Whyte choosing to study a depression-era immigrant community in Boston’s North End not out of any interest in immigration or Italian immigrants but as a typical and conveniently located slum—a foil for dated theoretical debates.

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Historicizing Knowledge

Recently there has been a lot of chatter on academic Twitter reflecting on the need to decolonize various academic fields. Such impulses go to the heart of what histories of knowledge are: People produce, use, translate, and pass on knowledge in specific socio-cultural contexts. Knowledge has a history, and much of that history is bound up with the histories of fields and professions.

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Knowledge Notes

POSTDOC VACANCY: The Restitution of Knowledge: Artefacts as Archives in the (Post)Colonial Museum, 1850-1939. TU Berlin, April 15, 2020, to April 14, 2022. Application deadline: March 20, 2020. (HT @an_augusti)

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Technology Behind Media Misinformation: The Creation, Detection and Investigation of Fake News. “The Digital Humanities/Digital Scholarship Special Interest Group is calling for presenters to participate in their open session at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Dublin, Ireland, from August 15-20, 2020.” Deadline: March 25, 2020. (HT @SwenSteinberg for this and the next two calls .)

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Knowledge Notes

Stephanie Leitsch is teaching the 44th International Wolfenbüttel Summer Course, entitled “Early Modern Visual Data: Organizing Knowledge in Printed Books.”

As prints taught viewers how to observe and thus arguably democratized knowledge derived from first-hand experience, this seminar considers printed images as critical visual technology that built knowledge acquisition. . . .

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Knowledge Notes

Knowledge Notes