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W.E.B. Du Bois
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California State University, Dominguez Hills
Created: September 22, 2000
Latest update: May 14, 2001

The Philadelphia Negro Study
W.E.B. Du Bois Sets the Standard for the Sociological Study
Review Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, September 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.

This essay is based on James Faraganis' Readings on Social Theory. McGraw-Hill. 2000. ISBN: 0-07-230060-4. Chapter 7, pp. 179-190.

W.E.B. Du Bois was born and educated in the Northern United States. There was no sociology when he studied at Harvard for his Ph.D., so he had to take his degree in history. So when we go back to Du Bois, we are grounding our work in that of one the first social theorists in this country.

Du Bois, even before the receipt of his doctorate, began his world studies and studies with Max Weber in Germany. One of the important things you can see just reveiwing his work on the Philadelphia Negro in Faraganis' chapter 7, is the methodological approach that he set up.

Du Bois approach bears many similarities to the postmodern approach. He emphasizes the arrogance of our assuming that we know about the Negro, when we have never in fact listened to the voice of the Negro. That insistence upon the recognition of the Other and the Other's perspective cuts right through the "objectivism" of later twentieth-century positivism.

Du Bois speaks of the complexity of knowledge, and of the need to triangulate. All this in 1899! In this sense, we in the twenty-first century now climb on Du Bois' shoulders as we rediscover and implement many of the ideas he had already developed a century ago.

Will put up more . . . soon. jeanne