From ‘the Gang’ to Educational Sociology: A Reappraisal of Frederic M. Thrasher's Legacy

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Maurizio MERICO, University of Salerno, Italy
Like other colleagues from the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago, Frederic M. Thrasher owes his reputation to the research carried out during his PhD and published in 1927 as ‘The Gang’: a ‘classic of sociology’ that has become over time a reference for those studying youth gangs and youth subcultures.
Although representing for him an opportunity to get sudden recognition and a constant reference throughout his career, the experience in Chicago is only the first step of his academic and intellectual biography. In 1927, after the release of ‘The Gang’, Thrasher joined the Department of Educational Sociology at the New York University. At NYU, he had the opportunity to redefine its intellectual path. Thrasher placed the novelty of the Chicago approach at the service of the challenge launched by Educational Sociology: recognizing the role and contribution of sociology in analyzing and solving educational problems.
Thrasher worked in New York from 1927 to 1959, focusing his analysis on the social contexts that influence educational processes, the relationship between school, informal groups and communities, the contents and roles of informal education, the effects of ‘motion pictures’ on young people and the relationship between education and prevention of juvenile delinquency.
This phase of his intellectual biography remains largely unknown. However, while considering its limits and contradictions, it seems still able to offer interesting insights to contemporary research.

In this direction, the paper aims at presenting and critically analysing the main features of the empirical researches and of the theoretical and methodological thoughts developed by Thrasher throughout his path from Chicago to New York, also in the hope that it can offer new insights for – as in the aims of the session – reversing the approach in the studies of youth gangs.