The Chicago School is Dead, Long Live the Chicago School! Why the Transatlantic Dialogue on Ethnography is in Need of an Update

Debora Niermann


In this article, I argue for an updating of the transatlantic reception of ethnography with the aid of a thick description of the current ethnographic landscape in the USA. Ethnographers working in the interactional Chicago School are facing an essential need to reposition themselves. Michael BURAWOY and Loïc WACQUANT, two important interpretative players with varying theoretical perspectives, have argued for a differentiation of ethnographic approaches. This has caused both profound reconstruction within sociology and led to the ethnographic credibility of the classical Chicago School of ethnography being put in the crossfire outside of the discipline. This is exemplified in the case of Alice GOFFMAN. In order for the transatlantic reception relationship to be considered valid, it must be detached from the predominantly historicizing reference to the founding years of the Chicago School, recognize the current influential shift in the field of sociological ethnography, and include the epistemologically strong connections within the transatlantic dialogue that are present in this country.


transatlantic dialogue; Chicago School; US-American ethnography; sociology; Alice Goffman; tales of the field


Copyright (c) 2020 Debora Niermann

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.