William Foote Whyte
Street Corner Society is one of a handful of works that can justifiably be called classics of sociological research. William Foote Whyte’s account of the Italian American slum he called “Cornerville”—Boston’s North End—has been the model for urban ethnography for fifty years.
By mapping the intricate social worlds of street gangs and “corner boys,” Whyte was among the first to demonstrate that a poor community need not be socially disorganized. His writing set a standard for vivid portrayals of real people in real situations. And his frank discussion of his methodology—participant observation—has served as an essential casebook in field research for generations of students and scholars.