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Gender, Science, Politics and Geographies of the City

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Most histories of urban studies represent the theoretical statements of the Chicago School of Sociology in the 1920s as foundational. However, perspectives on sociospatial relationships associated with Robert Park and his co-workers could be recognised as a distinctively masculinised form of knowledge, centred on science, objectivity and distancing. Contemporaneous research on the city by women in the Chicago School of Social Service Administration has been ignored by (predominantly male) urban geographers and sociologists. I argue that this neglect can be explained by a downgrading of knowledge produced by these women in relation to scientific sociology, by the context of political radicalism within which the research was produced, and by subsequent developments in urban studies which were unsympathetic to their ideas. In making this case, I first identify significant theoretical contributions made by women in the School of Social Service Administration. Second, the marginalisation of the women's research is related to the sexist attitudes of male sociologists coupled with the claims of a masculinised social science, positioned above other forms of knowledge. The question of gendered knowledge is explored through object relations theory and, particularly, the work of Evelyn Fox Keller. Thirdly, I discuss the politics of women in the School of Social Service Administration and the Hull House Settlement. Their embrace of socialism, feminism and pacifism contributed further to their marginalisation .
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1995

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