The settlement house

THE SETTLEMENT HOUSE

Originally (a solidarity exhibit in Paris Expo 1900 – musee social), a bottom-up voluntary association, located in a poor urban community, where poorly skilled workers could receive education, get advice on everyday problems or simply find a warm, clean place to hang out. Providers of service were mostly middle-class women, usually working for nothing. SH were small usually serving 600-800 people. The SH movement spread from Europe to the US. Moscow: Alexander Zelenko/ Chicago: Hull House founded by Jane Adams. The SH took up the issue of sociality in a complex society full of difference and sought to convert inner and often passive awareness of others into active engagement. To do that, it emphasized informal contact (Toll’s Rule): advise rather than direct. It gave more shape to cooperative activity and turned technical competence into a sociable activity.

Hampton (1866) and Tuskegee (1881) Institutes sought to build the skills and morale of ex-slaves. The founder was Booker T. Washington. However, the ex-slaves had developed sophisticated skills in farming, carpentering, house building and they taught lessons themselves to newer members. Temporary relocation could regenerate cooperation through daily contact with others. Gender equality was also inscribed within racial recovery. The workshop became an icon of reform. Washington emphasized that each person had something different to offer

FRANCES JOHNSTON

Frances Johnston’s images show ethnic differences resolved by people working together, rather than simply being together; they make a point about the tools that enable workers to cooperate. In this famous photo, six men are constructing a staircase, each deploying a different skill yet locked together. The photo is staged, it is a narrative of the stages needed to build a staircase. They are relaxed but absorbed in performing a demanding task [image retrieved from: http://www.oxfordartonline.com/page/American-Women-Photographers-c.-1900-1940, Frances Benjamin Johnston: Students at work on a house built largely by them, gelatin silver print, c. 1899-90 (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division); image courtesy of the Library of Congress]

 

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books

Cover Image available here

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  1. Pingback: The workshop as a means for creating & sustaining sociality | connecting data to information to knowldge

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