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The Individual and the “General Situation”

The Individual and the “General Situation”

Defining the Race Problem at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Education, Training, and Research in Race Relations

Chapter:
(p.78) Three The Individual and the “General Situation”
Source:
From Power to Prejudice
Author(s):
Leah N. Gordon
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226238586.003.0004

Chapter Three examines the University of Chicago’s Committee on Education, Training, and Research in Race Relations (CETRRR), which sociologist Louis Wirth established in 1947 to produce and disseminate research on race relations. Although the university’s sociology department had been the institutional home of Robert Park’s social ecology, the leading systemic approach to race relations in the 1920s and 1930s, concern with prejudice and the interpersonal sources of racial tensions received considerable attention at CETRRR between 1947 and 1952. Nonetheless, arguments over the relationship between white attitudes and the “general situation” in which race relations developed divided CETRRR researchers. These debates emerged forcefully in both discussions of a “tension barometer,” a survey research instrument intended to predict urban racial violence before it occurred, and in CETRRR affiliates’ efforts to promote better race relations in the Chicago Public Schools. However, both methodological considerations associated with the refining of individualistic survey research techniques and reformist concerns related to preventing wartime racial violence discouraged critics of racial individualism from elaborating alternative approaches.

Keywords:   committee on education, training and research, race relations, Louis Wirth, race relations, racial tensions, social ecology, survey research, tension barometer

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