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The history of the social reportage and its relation to the social sciences in Sweden, 1840-2000

Research project

Project overview

Project period:

2013-05-28 2013-12-31


The Swedish Research Council

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

History of ideas, Sociology

Project description

The aim of the project is to study the ways in which different types of media technologies and cognitive practices have been utilized to represent and communicate ”the social” as a problematic sphere in need of investigations and political interventions.

The journalistic social reportage, the literary social novel, the empirical social sciences, the documentary photo and film have all been objects of different and separate discipline-based studies before. The intention of this project is however not to reproduce these studies, but to problematize and historically situate these disciplinary and professional boundaries by focusing on the historical interrelatedness, transgressive collaborations and mutually interdependence between journalists, authors, social scientists and other social knowledge producers.

Analytically, this will be done by focusing on the ”social reportage” as a specific form of mediated public knowledge, based on the one hand on the reporter’s circular movements or ”cycles of accumulation” in the social and geographical space (c.f. latin re-porter) and on the other on the mediation and public enrolment of the social knowledge produced.

Empirically, the project is composed by a number of case studies, each one focusing on a specific historically situated reportage which will be contextually and thematically analysed.

A preliminary hypothesis, which motivates the contextual approach of the project, is that the power of public attraction of each specific social reportage, but also its degree of trust and credibility in its objective claims, partly has to be understood in relation to the status of the contemporary social research infrastructure and the current media landscape in each case.

One theoretical ambition of the project is to develop a more media-sensitive understanding of the history of the social sciences, but also to enrich the historical understanding of how the social sphere and the relationship between the private and public spheres have been formed and reformed until our time.
Latest update: 2018-08-13