The American Sociologist

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 264–293 | Cite as

Mapping the City: Innovation and Continuity in the Chicago School of Sociology, 1920–1934

Article

Abstract

This paper examines the historical origins and theoretical underpinnings of the maps of the city of Chicago produced by sociologists at the University of Chicago between 1920 and 1934. I argue that the three mapping schemes produced in those years—the concentric zone map of The City (1925), the base map of 75 community areas and the census tract maps published in three volumes of Census Data of the City of Chicago (1920, 1930, 1934)—draw upon distinct historical antecedents and have distinct theoretical implications. The first scheme exhibits the strong influence of Johann Heinrich von Thünen’s location theory and maps produced by early Chicago city boosters, the second most clearly exhibits the influence of the Social Survey Movement and of pragmatist philosophy and the third, the influence of the financial and governmental interests of the organizations that made up the Chicago Census Committee. Literature on early urban sociology and mapping in Chicago has hitherto not adequately differentiated these three mapping schemes or problematized the implications of their differences for our understanding of the theoretical commitments of the “Chicago School.”

Keywords

Mapping Ecology Community areas Social survey movement Chicago school 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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