Your Columbians
Herbert J. Gans

"Only in a more egalitarian society is it possible to develop policies that are truly in the public interest, for only in such a society do enough citizens share enough interests so that these can be considered public interests."

Herbert J. Gans (1927– )
Faculty 1971–

For decades, Professor Herbert J. Gans has published pioneering sociological studies and mentored generations of students via both his teaching and publications. In his work, Professor Gans expresses deep concern over social problems and how social science might be used to further illuminate them. His "Urban Villagers," published 40 years ago, still stands as a classic statement against urban renewal and the effects it can have on the community ties and patterns, which Professor Gans researched in an eventually demolished Boston Italian neighborhood. Professor Gans has never fallen victim to ivy-tower insulation. His works are classic examples of participant-observation studies—that is, actually talking and spending substantial time with people one is studying—at their best.

Moreover, Professor Gans has never been afraid to tweak orthodoxy. His book on Levittown and his study of popular culture were rebuttals against common middle-class leftist intellectuals' depictions of these topics.

Now in his seventies, Professor Gans still teaches courses at Columbia, reading single-spaced field notes that students write after hours of observation, and commenting meticulously on them.

Submitted by Merlin Chowkwanyun, Columbia College 2005, who is solely responsible for the content.

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