‘I was a Sociological Stranger’: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Undercover Performance in the Publication of The Taxi‐Dance Hall, 1925–1932

‘I was a Sociological Stranger’: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Undercover Performance in the... In the summer months of 1925, a young sociology graduate student at the University of Chicago secured a paid position as a Juvenile Protective Association (JPA) special investigator with the help of his advisor, Ernest W. Burgess. In June, Paul G. Cressey began work that encompassed canvassing immigrant neighbourhoods on the near west side of Chicago, surveying ‘moral conditions’, and assessing complaints filed by local residents. As his monthly reports to the JPA attest, Cressey took his undercover methods and job responsibilities seriously. In one of his monthly reports, Cressey wrote that his investigatory work had to ‘be done incognito’ to ensure reliable information. Sounding more like a pulp‐fiction private eye than a social worker or sociologist, he explained, ‘in most cases the exposure of one's identity was detrimental in securing accurate information’. Over the course of the summer, Cressey assumed a series of disguises as he worked clandestinely to inspect playgrounds, public parks, street corners and alleyways documenting the moral dangers of unsupervised play while trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible among the precocious youth of Chicago's working‐class neighbourhoods.As a JPA investigator, Cressey's reports often highlighted the problem of female sexual delinquency by focusing on seemingly promiscuous http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Gender & History Wiley

‘I was a Sociological Stranger’: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Undercover Performance in the Publication of The Taxi‐Dance Hall, 1925–1932

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Publisher
Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
ISSN
0953-5233
eISSN
1468-0424
D.O.I.
10.1111/1468-0424.12340
Publisher site
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Abstract

In the summer months of 1925, a young sociology graduate student at the University of Chicago secured a paid position as a Juvenile Protective Association (JPA) special investigator with the help of his advisor, Ernest W. Burgess. In June, Paul G. Cressey began work that encompassed canvassing immigrant neighbourhoods on the near west side of Chicago, surveying ‘moral conditions’, and assessing complaints filed by local residents. As his monthly reports to the JPA attest, Cressey took his undercover methods and job responsibilities seriously. In one of his monthly reports, Cressey wrote that his investigatory work had to ‘be done incognito’ to ensure reliable information. Sounding more like a pulp‐fiction private eye than a social worker or sociologist, he explained, ‘in most cases the exposure of one's identity was detrimental in securing accurate information’. Over the course of the summer, Cressey assumed a series of disguises as he worked clandestinely to inspect playgrounds, public parks, street corners and alleyways documenting the moral dangers of unsupervised play while trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible among the precocious youth of Chicago's working‐class neighbourhoods.As a JPA investigator, Cressey's reports often highlighted the problem of female sexual delinquency by focusing on seemingly promiscuous

Journal

Gender & HistoryWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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