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The Social Distance Scale, Emory S. Bogardus and Californian Interwar Migration Research Offside the Chicago School

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This paper investigates the Social Distance Scale as a method to measure the degree of resentment towards immigrant groups invented by the University of Southern California sociologist Emory S. Bogardus. It asks why it is the only theory emerging from the orbit of the Chicago School still in use today. First, it looks at how Bogardus’s research environment in Los Angeles differed from that of his mentor Robert E. Park in Chicago. Then, it examines how Bogardus’s involvement with the Methodist All Nations Foundation influenced his conceptualisation of social distance. Third, it asks how this approach differed methodologically from the Chicago School’s Assimilation Theory. It concludes that the reciprocal relationship between Bogardus’s research and his social involvement caused him to dissolve the scale from spatial and temporal settings and create a theory that became universally applicable.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Special Research Area “Cultures of Decision-Making”, University of Münster, Germany,


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