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


  • Debora Niermann Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg



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


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.


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Author Biography

Debora Niermann, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Debora NIERMANN (M.A.), Dipl. Soz.-Päd. (FH), ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Institut für Soziologie der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Arbeitsschwerpunkte: interpretative Sozialforschung, Grounded-Theory-Methodologie, US-amerikanische Ethnografie, amerikanischer Pragmatismus. Weitere Publikationen der Autorin zur Thematik: "Etablierte Außenseiter. Zur Sozialfigur des 'homo ethnographicus' in der gegenwärtigen US-amerikanischen Soziologie". Zeitschrift für Soziologie (i.E.); "Zu den Reisen einer Methode. Über die Auslassungen in der transatlantischen Ethnografierezeption oder 'Wie schreibe ich (k)einen ethnografischen Bestseller?'" In Martin Harbusch (Hrsg.), Reisendes Wissen. "traveling concepts" als soziologische Kategorie. Springer VS (i.E.).



How to Cite

Niermann, D. (2020). The Chicago School is Dead, Long Live the Chicago School! Why the Transatlantic Dialogue on Ethnography is in Need of an Update. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(3).



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