The Memory Man Visits the Land of Amnesia: Maurice Halbwachs at the University of Chicago

Stuart Hall, Room 101

The great French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, author of two groundbreaking books on the structures of collective memory, was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1930. He had a desk in the brand-new Social Sciences Research Building, experienced exotic American food in the Quad Club and downtown cafeterias, worried about Al Capone pumping him full of lead, and went motoring with Hyde Park society matrons. Like most Europeans at the time, he felt that Chicago was an inhuman environment but an indication of things to come. His letters home, newly published, give a fascinating glimpse of the lived dimensions of his scholarship: memory, identity, place, collective belonging, and the fragile character of peace between the wars.