Finding the City in Sociology - Broadening and Deepening the Geographic Scope of the Urban and Inequality Literatures


Cities have long been the object of fascination within sociology. Key portions of sociological literatures on inequality and globalization, for instance, have focused on urban spaces as essential sites for the production and reproduction of social life, and urban sociology itself is one of the oldest fields in the discipline. For all of this prominence, however, locating the city itself in these literatures can be difficult. Much of our understanding of urban life and urban social problems is derived from a relatively small number of American cities. Moreover, cities are often relegated to a supporting role as a research site rather than an institution worthy of interrogation. This article reviews the path that has brought a specific set of cities to the fore of American sociological analyses. In response, broadening literatures to cities in the literal and figurative American South and producing deeper literatures of specific cities can give sociology the opportunity to produce more representative and contextually rich analyses of inequalities, urban social life, and urban form. The literature on St. Louis, Missouri is presented as an example of what such a broader and deeper literature could encompass.

Sociology Compass, 14(2)
Chris Prener
Chris Prener
Assistant Professor of Sociology

My research interests include first responder work, urban neighborhood disorder, and tracing the effects of place on poor health outcomes.