In the Belgian Chateau: The Spirit and Culture of a European Society in an Age of Change

Overview

When Renee Fox first traveled to Brussels in 1959 to study the Belgian institutions of medical research, she scarcely realized how strongly Belgium's way of life would take hold of her. Fascinated by the culture and its people, she began thirty-five years of investigation of that small European country. Moving across Belgium's geography and society, Ms. Fox uses her autobiography as a wedge to explore the ways of life of the chateaux and their inhabitants. Blending social and cultural analysis with ethnography, ...
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Overview

When Renee Fox first traveled to Brussels in 1959 to study the Belgian institutions of medical research, she scarcely realized how strongly Belgium's way of life would take hold of her. Fascinated by the culture and its people, she began thirty-five years of investigation of that small European country. Moving across Belgium's geography and society, Ms. Fox uses her autobiography as a wedge to explore the ways of life of the chateaux and their inhabitants. Blending social and cultural analysis with ethnography, contemporary history, interviews, and her personal reflections, she succeeds in conveying the values, images, atmosphere, and world-view of a whole European society since World War II. Her encounters are with important powers in government and science, with great playwrights, with families of the middle class as well as those of wealth and stature, and with the routinized but socially revealing banks, railroads, and postal systems of Belgium. Her experiences in the African country of Zaire (formerly the Congo), at a time when it was pulling away from its status as a Belgian colony, make an insightful report on this moment of change.
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Editorial Reviews

Natalie Zemon Davis
In the Belgian Chateau is a visit with one of America's most distinguished sociologists to a fascinating part of Europe in the last half of the twentieth century.
Mary Catherine Bateson
A marvelously vivid and insightful book!
Eugen Weber
Sensitive, perceptive, revealing, and delightfully readable.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To Fox, professor of social sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, the ``chateau'' symbolizes the hierarchy that long controlled medical research in Belgium, a subject she began to investigate 34 years ago when research policy was hammered out at a meeting in a castle. Despite her claim to represent ``European society,'' her focus is specifically on Belgium. As a respected foreign academician, Fox had entre to elite members of Belgian society, whom she profiles here. She also provides an excellent summary of recent Belgian history, and almost a third of the book is devoted to her experiences in the former Belgian Congo, which she visited as it was gaining its independence as the renamed nation of Zaire. Fox's attempt to combine a detached sociological study of Belgium-railway and postal systems, domestic architecture, family life, etc.-and a personal memoir, however, doesn't totally gel. Sept.
Library Journal
As the movie If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium suggested, this small, bilingual "low country" is rarely an American traveler's long dreamed of destination. Sociologist Fox, on the contrary, finds Belgium beautiful and fascinating; she bases her book on her numerous visits to the country between 1959 and 1993. The "chateau" to which the title refers represents the traditional political, economic, and religious institutions that have given Belgium, an artificial state devised by treaty in 1830, a national identity. Fox contends that Belgium's increasingly bitter ethnic and linguistic hostilities are evidence that the "chateau" is crumbling, with the deterioration going back as far as the loss of the Congo in 1960. This thoughtful, well-researched book is not for the average tourist. Fox's writing style, though never droning or uninteresting, is somewhat professorial. Highly recommended for academic libraries; an optional purchase for public libraries.-Mary C. Kalfatovic, Telesec Lib. Svcs., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566637121
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 3/20/2008
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Renée C. Fox is Annenberg Professor of the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, widely honored for her work in medical sociology. Her other books include Experiment Perilous, The Courage to Fail, and Spare Parts.

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