Where Is the Archive in Historical Sociology? A Case for Ethnographic Dispositions

Armando Lara-Millan, University of California, Berkeley
Brian Sargent, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Sunmin Kim, Dartmouth College

What makes “good” kinds of archival evidence? We argue that historical sociologists can answer this question by looking to their colleagues practicing ethnography. In particular, historical sociologists can immerse themselves, through the information garnered from documents, in the community of people which they study, in order to better understand what historical actors were thinking and how they made choices in important historical junctures. An “ethnographic disposition” can help historical sociologists turn away from outcome-focused descriptions and focus more on the process-oriented analysis of historical events. Examples are illustrated with the cases of jail overcrowding in Los Angeles County, housing policy in the Federal Reserve, and immigration policy in the Dillingham commission.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 15. Archival Work as Qualitative Sociology I: Methodological Reflections