Failed Scholar, Successful Scholarship:

W.E.B. Du Bois and the Epistemic Style of Professionalized Social Inquiry in the U.S.

Investigator: Dr. Alexander Starre

At the turn of the 20th century, the modernization of American higher education created many of the institutions, disciplines, and cultural protocols that to this day ensure the production and circulation of knowledge in the U.S. and worldwide. This project focuses on the early scholarly career of the African American writer W.E.B. Du Bois in the 1890s and 1900s to explore how various epistemic styles – competing modes of research and writing – informed his scholarship as he attempted to find his place in the academy. Du Bois was quickly relegated to the sidelines by the predominantly white establishment of the ascendant field of sociology. However, the balance he achieved between empirically sound observation, activist interpretation, and public-facing writing has reemerged as a prime epistemic ideal in contemporary American Studies.