Christiane Schwab

Sketches of manners, esquisses des moeurs

The Journalistic Sketch of Society (1830-1860) as an Ethnographic Format of Knowledge


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In the first half of the 19th century – originating in London and Paris – journalistic descriptions of social types and cultural routines became a popular medium for the measurement of ever more diverse societies. This paper examines the sketch of society as a format of early social and cultural research. It deals with the genesis of the sketch of society in the context of a liberalized press market, sheds light on its stylistic and epistemic versatility and brings the popularity of this journalistic format and its forms of representation in connection with the recovery of experiential images of society and scientific principles as well as with politically engaged social research. The sketches of society are meaningful products and agents of a consolidating public dialogue based on social and cultural research, which only in the second half of the 19th century broke away from literary forms and was differentiated within academic disciplines.

history of anthropological thought, history of knowledge, 19th century, European journalism