Letter From the Chair, Spring 2021

Next week I’m heading to New York to see my parents and my sister and her family for the first time since COVID. I hope you are all vaccinated (thanks, Science!) and able to see friends and loved ones this summer.

Photo: Terence E. McDonnell, University of Notre Dame

Section Awards I have the great honor of announcing the results of this year’s section awards. Before I get to the good news, I just wanted to note that I saw the lists of nominees and was bowled over by all the great work submitted for our awards. The competition was stiff! Without further ado…

We had two co-winners for The Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book in the Sociology of Culture: Fernando Domínguez Rubio’s Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum and Matthew Clair’s Privilege and Punishment. How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court. In addition, the committee handed out two honorable mentions: Erin Metz McDonnell’s Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States and Anne Warfield Rawls and Waverly Duck’s Tacit Racism. Kudos to the hard work of the committee: Larissa Buchholz (Chair), Orly Clerge, Julia Sonnevend, Roi Livne, Derron Wallace, and Christina Simko.

We also hadtwo winners for The Clifford Geertz Prize for Best Article: Daniel DellaPosta’s “Pluralistic Collapse: The ‘Oil Spill’ Model Of Mass Opinion Polarization” andKevin Kiley and Stephen Vaisey’s “Measuring Change And Stability In Personal Culture Using Panel Data.” Both papers were published in the American Sociological Review. The committee also acknowledged Craig M. Rawlings and Clayton Childress’s “Emergent Meanings: Reconciling Dispositional and Situational Accounts of Meaning-Making from Cultural Objects” (American Journal of Sociology) with an honorable mention. Many thanks to the Geertz Award committee: Omar Lizardo (Chair), Beth Gharrity Gardner, Tim Hallett, Yongren Shi, Andrea Voyer, and Xiaohong Xu.

Finally, we honor our two co-winners of The Richard A. Peterson Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper: Laura Acosta, “Victimhood dissociation and conflict resolution: evidence from the Colombian peace plebiscite” (Theory and Society) and Chloe Grace Hart, “Trajectory Guarding: Managing Unwanted, Ambiguously Sexual Interactions at Work” (American Sociological Review). Many thanks to our esteemed award committee: Carly Knight (Chair), Jaleh Jalili, Erin Johnston, Rachel Skaggs, Jeff Swindle, and Marshall Taylor.

Congratulations to these wonderful sociologists for their excellent work and contributions to the Sociology of Culture. There is so much brilliant cultural sociology being written right now—please read and cite their research! I’d also like to acknowledge the award committees for their work and emotional anguish as they made these difficult decisions. It means so much to the section to have such wonderful volunteers.  

Culture and Contemporary Life Series Our first year of the Culture and Contemporary Life Series has come to a close. I’m so incredibly proud of the success of this initiative and many of you have written to me to say how much you’ve enjoyed the discussions. We’ve had three panels since the last newsletter. Click the titles to watch!

Vaccinations in the Age of COVID Panelists included Claire Laurier Decoteau, Laura Mamo, and Jennifer Reich with Margarita Rayzberg moderating.

Creative Industries in Crisis Panelists were Patricia A. Banks, Angèle Christin, and Steven Tepper with Rachel Skaggs moderating.

The Cultural Politics of Naming and Commemoration Panelists included Angela Gonzales, Fiona Greenland, and Christina Simko with Robin Wagner-Pacifici serving as moderator.

These panels have been a real gift this year. They have kept the section connected throughout our COVID isolation—I know I really looked forward to these events. They helped us make sense of current events as they happened and affirmed the value of taking a cultural lens to topics of the day. It has been great to hear about all the wonderful contributions to these conversations from our panelists’ research.

The committee put together a truly inspired group of panelists. The committee made an online series seem easy, but that obscures the efforts that it took to make everything run so smoothly. Thanks to Hannah Wohl (Chair), Shai Dromi, Lisa McCormick, Meltem Odabas, Matt Rafalow, and Victoria Reyes (council liaison) for pulling off this huge accomplishment and keeping us inspired this year.

Updates from Council The Culture Section council and committees have been hard at work this year pushing forward on a number of fronts. Given that ASA is online this year, we’re temporarily refocusing the John Mohr travel award into a grant to support the work of a racially or ethnically under-represented graduate student’s research in the sociology of culture. The success of the mentorship program’s first year has led the membership committee to renew it for the 2021-22 year. Thanks to Blake Silver (Chair), Meghan Daniel, Michael Siciliano, Patrice Wright, Alissa Boguslaw, and Mathieu Desan for their work. The Diversity and Inclusion committee (Nino Bariola and Anya Degenshein co-chairs, along with Jelani Ince and Yesenia Vargas) have developed a robust slate of proposed initiatives—I appreciate their important work. Look out for twitter profiles of BIPOC students on the job market from @ASACulture in the coming months. We’re also amplifying the work of cultural scholars of color by creating a bibliography of self-nominated work. Finally, in lieu of our usual section reception, I’ll be hosting a Culture Section Trivia Night on Zoom. Look for details on these and other initiatives in my emails to section members.

In this Issue The June newsletter memorializes two of our recently departed cultural sociology colleagues: Barry Schwartz and John Ryan. Former Chair of the Sociology of Culture Section Barry Schwartz is memorialized by Mark Jacobs, Robin Wagner-Pacifi, Gary Alan Fine, Michael Schudson, Yael Zerubavel,  Vered Vinitsky-Seroussi, and Lyn Spillman. John Ryan is remembered by Mike Hughes. We thank these colleagues for sharing their memories of these beloved sociologists.

Chandra Mukerji has a thought-provoking essay about how Trump uses speculative fiction to create “self-fulfilling prophesies with political effect.” She draws on Foucault to make a powerful statement on the power of prophetic truths. Finally, Emma Brandt reports on two of the Culture and Contemporary Life Panels, and Alex van Venrooij reviews Measuring Culture.

This is the last issue with Yu Ching Cheng as lead editor of the newsletter. The section is indebted to her tireless efforts. We also welcome editors Bo Yun Park, Manning Zhang, and Emma Brown who join Bambang Trihadmojo (our webmaster and social media manager) on our newsletter and communications team.

I hope everyone enjoys their summer as we collectively remember how to be around people again! May your summer be restorative, and we’ll see you in August for ASA.