The New Chicago: A Social and Cultural Analysis

The New Chicago: A Social and Cultural Analysis

The New Chicago: A Social and Cultural Analysis

The New Chicago: A Social and Cultural Analysis


This book is unusual on several counts. Its most persistent and unnerving characteristic was expressed by our university's Academic Vice-President when the book editors met with him to ask for extraordinary support to bring the project to life. "It's too ambitious" was the frank appraisal of our historian-trained administrator. Our college Dean concurred, but in the wake of our presentations to each, they gave us their full and unwavering support for the duration of the project.

Another unusual characteristic of this book is the reality of six editors—a bit odd for sure because it is difficult to get more than two academics to agree on anything. The book began with three like-minded editors—John Koval, Michael Bennett, and Fassil Demissie—who had begun by planning a very different book, a book examining the impact of immigrants and immigration on contemporary Chicago. As we discussed our project, it expanded to a much larger and more exciting intellectual challenge: the analysis of social, political, demographic, economic, and cultural change in the Chicago region. Deciding to forge ahead with this larger agenda, we looked for colleagues to expand the team.

The first colleague we approached to join us in this conceptualizing and writing venture, Roberta Garner, passionately rejected the offer—because she was reluctant to reexperience the frustrations of working with other authors, coordinating schedules, and enforcing deadlines. Intellectual arm wrestling finally won out, and three became four. Larry Bennett actually offered to join us and convinced us that we needed him more than we knew (he was right), and four became five. Lastly, we each recognized that our project called for a social scientist conversant in the use and management of census data and other large data sets. Five, then, became six with the recruitment of Kiljoong Kim.

Planning the book became a six-person yearlong colloquium on urban analysis and change. After that year we knew what kind of a book we wanted to produce, what its content and chapter subjects should be, and how it should flow. We also thought we knew most of the people we wanted to produce it with, so the next challenge was to bring them on board.

Moving ahead proved sensitive on two counts. First, many of us—speaking both of editors and contributors—were strangers to each other, and not one of us knew everyone else both personally and intellectually. So first we had to prove to our potential team that our project could be realized and that it would be worth the risk of time and effort. Second, with twenty contributors we faced the danger of generating nearly that many distinct book agendas with little to unify them except a single book jacket and a common title.

We brought all the potential contributors together for two workshops. The first day-long workshop had two goals: (1) to introduce ourselves to our prospective co-authors and to each other, as well as (2) to introduce them to our project, the parameters of a common theme, and a common set of what we had now identified as "converging forces." We agreed beforehand that if, after our presentation at this workshop, anyone felt they could not write within the . . .

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