Memorial: Barry Schwartz

Originally published in Section Culture: Newsletter of the ASA Culture Section. Spring 2021. Vol. 35 Issue 5.

Photo: Barry Schwartz (Source: Dignity Memorial

January 6 of this year at age 82.  An original thinker and a generous spirit, his writing and his mentorship helped create the contemporary sociology of culture.  A number of his colleagues have contributed to this group remembrance:  Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Gary Alan Fine, Michael Schudson, Yael Zerubavel, Vered Vinitsky-Seroussi, and Lyn Spillman.  His intellectual legacy survives in the work of his colleagues and those he mentored, in addition to his voluminous and influential writings—books and essays—most of which can be downloaded from the website

In particular, he revived and expanded the concept of collective memory, providing intellectual ballast for the discipline while recovering and expanding central lines of inquiry.  (His convenient, concise, and accessible introduction to the conception of collective memory can be found in the Routledge International Handbook of Memory Studies, ed. by Anna Lisa Tota and Trever Hagen.)  Barry’s interests were wide-ranging, imaginative, and deep.  Perhaps best known for his work on Abraham Lincoln in American memory—through times of societal crisis, and up to the present—he wrote profoundly and engagingly on such topics as queuing and waiting as forms of social control; vertical classification as the symbolism of deference; popular reverence for George Washington, despite Washington’s shortcomings; collective memory in Japan and in Korea; and the ontological status of miracles attributed to the historical Jesus.   As his interests and methods in studying collective memory evolved, his intellectual style solidified:  he identified and contrasted the core assumptions and approaches of competing theoretical traditions and devised inventive but rigorous tests for assessing them against each other.

I owe Barry a personal debt.  I was a graduate student at Chicago, where Barry supervised a research seminar for entering fellowship students, when Richard Nixon took away my funding:  Philip Kurland, the distinguished law professor at the university, was an outspoken critic of Nixon in the run-up to the Watergate scandal, in retaliation for which Nixon cut federal fellowship funds to the university.  Barry found me a job as a research analyst in a juvenile court outside Washington—a job he had himself held, as he worked his way to an M.A. at the University of Maryland–and he kept in close contact after that. In later years, we always got together around ASA meetings.  Back then, I was privileged to inherit Barry’s files at the court, with neatly-kept folders of various research projects he had conducted there.  He extracted from court files information about juveniles which he explored systematically by hand, looking for surprising correlations, which he would then analyze in finer and finer detail.  His research was data-driven, guided by his developing findings.  Although modest (within the parameters of the job), these studies were informative and insightful, and presaged his approach to subsequent research.

Barry was no child of privilege:  he was, in today’s parlance, a “first-genner” who made his own success.  He had dropped out of high school towards the end of his senior year, exposing him to a tour of military service, upon completion of which he passed the test for a General Equivalency Diploma and entered Temple. He earned his MA at Maryland, and his Ph.D. at Penn, where he studied with Marvin Wolfgang, Erving Goffman, and Philip Rieff.

Barry gave generously of his time to students, whom he would advise to pursue distinctive paths of research; and he followed his own advice.  Queuing and Waiting:  Studies in the Social Organization of Access and Delay (1975) combined clever applications of symbolic interactionism, especially in the experiential form of “face-to-back interaction,” with revealing measures of inequalities and other dimensions of social disorganization.  George Washington:  The Making of an American Symbol, published in 1987, the year that the ASA Culture Section was born, had obvious significance for the section’s emerging agenda.  In it, Barry poses issues central not only to our intellectual but also our civic life; he examines not just the content, but the very constitution of our civic consciousness.

Why do all known cultures conceive of authority relations in terms of vertical metaphors?  With Vertical Classification:  A Study in Structuralism and the Sociology of Knowledge (1981) Barry introduced a strategy for framing inquiry that characterized his subsequent work:  making explicit significant differences of assumption and method adopted by seminal thinkers, as a way of structuring his own analyses of contested conceptions and claims.  In Vertical Classification for example, he contrasts Levi-Strauss’s structuralism with Durkheim’s functionalism.  He finds that physical height is the universal symbol of authority because the socialization of children inevitably requires looking up at their parents.

Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory (2000) and ­Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era (2008) together represent Barry’s magnum opus.  The first book compares the vagaries of the collective memories of Lincoln and Washington through the Progressive Era and World War I; the latter extends the comparison (with the emphasis on Lincoln) up to the turn of the century.  Both of these books are notable for the inventive use of evidence.  A vacillating reputation like Lincoln’s can be read not just from public opinion polls and cartoons but also from public statues and other works of art, as well as from comment books left by visitors over decades at the many museums, shrines, statues, memorials, etc.  Barry traveled far and wide in his search for many imaginative sources of evidence; it was a labor of love that produced an original and convincing portrait.

Barry’s detailed analysis of Lincoln’s standing in America’s late twentieth-century collective memory led to his characterization of “the post-heroic” era—a characterization that has only grown in contemporary salience.  Barry calls out historical inaccuracies in the collective memory, as a basis of critiquing contemporary society. When, a decade or so ago, I asked an undergraduate honors class to research the most popular memes of Lincoln, they identified “the Hard-Drinkin’ Lincoln”—hardly a symbol of honor and respect.   Many of the annual conversations I had with Barry at ASA meetings centered on the distinctions drawn by the philosopher Richard Rorty between “stable” and “unstable” irony, as a way to characterize contemporary cultural change.  That was to be a joint project, but alas it stands unfinished.

Only recently did I learn of Barry’s most daring project, grounded in his characteristic exploration of the tension between constructionism and realism:  a dialogue among Barry and about a dozen scholars of theology, centered around Barry’s work on collective memory, about the ontological status of the Biblical miracles performed by the historical Jesus.  (Memory and Identity in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity:  A Conversation with Barry Schwartz, ed. Tom Thatcher, 2014).  Barry entitles his opening essay about memory and history, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”  I knew from my conversations with Barry that he had been studying the teachings of Jesus’s rabbis; despite my familiarity with the dimensions of his knowledge, I was still surprised by the full extent of his intellectual depth.

His family and his colleagues at Georgia have experienced a great loss; members of the Culture Section have lost a guiding spirit.  Following are remembrances and tributes to Barry by some of those members:   Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Gary Alan Fine, Michael Schudson, Yael Zerubavel, Vered Vinitsky-Seroussi, and Lyn Spillman.  Taken together, these remembrances elaborate the profound significance of Barry’s thought as well as the integral selflessness of his character.

– Mark D. Jacobs (Professor of Sociology, George Mason University)

Barry Schwartz was an extraordinary sociologist, intellectual, and human being. He was infinitely curious about history, about society, and about the ways humans had of making meaning. From criminology to social psychology, to structuralism and semiotics, to collective memory (a field he helped create), his mind took in the empirical world and sought to analyze and understand it. I was fortunate to become his mentee, then friend, and to learn from him over the course of my career, from graduate school until now. And my thinking and career were forever changed as a result of that sustained encounter.

It was my dissertation advisor at The University of Pennsylvania, Charles Bosk (another recent terrible loss for Sociology) who suggested I send an early graduate school piece of writing about structuralism (the French rather than the Parsonian variant) to both Barry and Joseph Gusfield. Both esteemed scholars were gracious and generous in reading and commenting on a graduate student’s effort and both would become ex officio advisors as I developed my own projects. Barry appreciated and critically engaged the austere rigors of structuralism and semiotics, even as he would also eschew abstraction to delve deeply into empirically rich cases of famous political figures and historical events, eventually focusing his research on their transformations over time in society’s collective memory.

 In his ground-breaking early books, Queuing and Waiting: Studies in the Social Organization of Access and Delay, and Vertical Classification: A Study in Structuralism and the Sociology of Knowledge, time and space were analytically foregrounded as Barry brought cognition, psychology, and morality into productive dialogue with each other for Sociology. This interaction is best illustrated in a typically astute sentence from a related article, one in which Barry named what was at stake in apparently mundane activities, such as waiting in a queue or line: “[W]hat makes the queue itself morally significant and psychologically demanding is that it is a way of organizing obligations…” (“Queues, Priorities, and Social Process,” Social Psychology, 1978, Vol. 41, No.1, 3-12. P.3). Such a great phrase: “organizing obligations”.

This very tribute to Barry is also a way we have of “organizing obligations,” and it is an obligation I’m honored to take up even as I’m so saddened by his loss. My most intense, sustained, and transformative experience working with Barry took shape in the late 1980s when Barry visited Swarthmore College (where I then taught) as an External Examiner of our Honors students. During the Honors weekend, Barry and I found time to talk about Sociology and culture and politics and art. I mentioned to him that I was fascinated by Maya Lin’s very recently constructed Vietnam Veterans Memorial – so different from other war memorials and already generating strong reactions and controversy. At the time, I was mainly interested in the Memorial’s semiotic inversions, its unexpected lowness and darkness and abstract form. Barry immediately grasped the even richer possibilities for sociologically analyzing the memorial by bringing historical and ethnographic angles to bear, expanding the contexts and materials involved in what would become a several-year collaborative project to wrap our minds around this most unusual cultural object. Barry’s knowledge of history, of war memorials and monuments, of Durkheim’s ideas about the importance of commemoration and collective consciousness, along with his adamant empiricism, pushed us to examine the VVM from multiple angles and through multiple lenses. The article came to include analysis of objects left at the Memorial site, of political discourse and official documents surrounding its creation, and of further emendations of the Memorial complex (including the statues of the Three Fighting Men and the Nurses and an American flag). It was thrilling to work with Barry, and to learn from him every step of the way. It was through this process that Barry ushered me into the emerging field of Collective Memory and helped shape my thinking and writing. And speaking of writing – while we shared the task of writing the article, there is no doubt that the almost poetic cadence of the piece, its narrative flow, had Barry’s impress. He was, among other things, a really beautiful writer.

Barry would go on to write his great books about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in collective memory, among other projects. A bit of a paradox tracks these projects; Barry was an adamant empiricist, with realist tendencies, all the while elaborating a magisterial accounting of the work of social construction in transforming the resonance, prestige, and meaning of these historical figures over time. For example, in the case of Washington, Barry argued that hero worship is a complex phenomenon never entirely dependent on the innate specific qualities of a given “hero,” but rather: “[W]hat hero worship entails [is] not the recognition of greatness but the transformation, by social definition, of the ordinary into the heroic. If we are to understand this transformation, we must place it in proper context. Statements about Washington must be matched by statements about the central needs and concerns of his society.” (Barry Schwartz, “George Washington and the Whig Conception of Heroic Leadership,” American Sociological Review, Feb., 1983, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 18-33, p.20). I’ve found myself thinking a lot recently about Barry’s idea of the mapping of heroes onto central needs of societies at given times. I’ve been thinking specifically about Joe Biden and returning to Barry’s work on Washington and Lincoln to make sense of this new President. In this way, I’m still learning from Barry and wish he were here to discuss Biden and the concerns of Biden’s society with him.

 Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Barry’s unfailingly kind and gentlemanly demeanor. This did not, however, preclude a certain quirky playfulness (he once addressed me in an email as the “Divine Miss R”) and the occasional intellectual, political, and aesthetic provocation. For example, it took me years to realize that we did not share the same aesthetic judgment or affectual relationship to that very object we had looked at and pondered together so intensely for so long, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That this difference in personal opinion never hindered our work or our writing is a testament to both Barry’s professional scrupulousness and his intellectual openness.

Robin Wagner-Pacifici (Professor, The New School for Social Research)

In 1990, I was invited to move from the University of Minnesota to the University of Georgia to serve as department head. For some of my sociology colleagues, it seemed an odd choice, as the two universities were not treated as comparable in stature. Indeed, the deans at Minnesota felt this, as they were unwilling to match the offer that I had received, imagining that no ambitious scholar would make that move. However, they had not counted on the presence of Barry Schwartz as an intellectual magnet. By the time that I had applied, I had become intensely interested in understanding the dynamics by which political reputations come to be. Even though I was a full professor, fifteen years into my career, I wished to be Barry’s student, and so I became and so I am a different scholar.

As much as Barry Schwartz shaped me, we are not identical. One might well argue that Barry’s lodestar was Emile Durkheim, whereas I was more attuned to the writings of Erving Goffman. Barry examined reputations in light of the needs of society or the nation – whereas I was fascinated by the power of groups and reputational entrepreneurs. Perhaps more to the point, Barry was fascinated by the Great Figures of History. When I arrived at Georgia, Barry had recently published his George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol. If Barry was going to examine the great founding father, I was going to study our greatest traitor, Benedict Arnold. The reputations of the two were linked as it turned out. I considered myself as Barry’s dark twin. Later as he examined Abraham Lincoln, our greatest president, I studied Warren Harding, at that point considered our worst. Barry’s agenda was a powerful goad.

But what made Barry so special was that he was always an intellectual and political skeptic. He embraced this skepticism lightly and joyfully. And in his suspicion of the taken-for-granted and in his desire to turn sociological boilerplate inside out, his work has some of the feisty, yeasty qualities of the writings of those in the Second Chicago School of Erving Goffman and Howard Becker. Barry would not embrace the view that reputations developed from an objective assessment of events, but he also rejected the perspective that social constructions were all that matter, and that historical meaning was up-for-grabs: a mere game for mere intellectuals. There are frameworks of meaning, but also obdurate realities, a view that allowed Barry – along with Lewis Coser – to bring the cultural frameworks of Maurice Halbwachs to sociological attention.

The paper of Barry that I find most emblematic of this skeptical approach is his 2009 publication, “Collective Forgetting and The Symbolic Power of Oneness: The Strange Apotheosis of Rosa Parks.” Here Barry takes the iconic (perhaps overly iconic) figure of Rosa Parks, and argues, successfully, that there were “Rose Parkses” before there was Rosa Parks. As famous as she became – and as brave – she was not the first, but she had the supporters and the story that permitted her “strange apotheosis” to take root. Without denying her gifts, Barry argues that there was a need for one civil rights heroine, and Ms. Parks fit the bill; others had to be pushed aside, even if they violated Jim Crow laws previously. Others had been on those buses and had been arrested. It is a masterful, Barry-worthy account, and I was honored to have been the editor that published it in Social Psychology Quarterly. Over the years, Barry and I would dine annually and convivially in North Georgia between Athens and my summer home in Western North Carolina. We missed our 2020 dinner, and I feel a hollow emptiness in knowing that our 2021 dinner is not to be.

Gary Alan Fine (James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University)

I met Barry Schwartz in academic 1976-77. He was a junior faculty member who had just been denied tenure, serving his final year at the University of Chicago. So, fresh out of graduate school myself and in the first months of a tenure-track position, the time he spent with me was time getting to know a new junior faculty member he would never come to know as a colleague. Not exactly high priority. But we met for a lunch or a coffee, I don’t recall just when or where, or how many times – twice, three times perhaps. Nor do I remember if our meeting included Teresa Sullivan, the other junior faculty member just starting out with me. The three of us were the entire junior faculty. I don’t recall what we discussed. I only remember Barry’s tone – calm and cordial throughout, not a hint of criticism of his senior colleagues who voted not to promote him, a genuine interest in hearing about my work. There was an unusual combination of seriousness—approaching gravity— with kindness, gentleness, and he was what today we would call “relatable” – no such word existed then. How was it that someone with such apparently esoteric academic interests – queueing behavior? – could be so easy to talk to?

Barry’s interests and mine would converge later on collective or cultural memory.  I followed his work at a distance, as he did one detailed study after another of this then unfashionable topic. We were in touch a few times on one or another cultural memory matter and we had a most enjoyable conversation at the University of Georgia the one time I gave a talk there. I was impressed by the fierce integrity with which he pursued his work, notably in the book on Lincoln and how and why the Lincoln remembered in the late 20th century was distorted by the effort to reshape him to fit the civil rights movement. This Lincoln as President was not someone dedicated most of all to saving the United States as a single country but to becoming the Great Emancipator. A kind of early edition of political correctness set in. It’s clear that, while documenting this, Barry wanted nothing to do with it. On behalf of Lincoln, Barry was indignant. On behalf of truth, Barry was indignant. On behalf of a brave social science driven by a commitment to a clear, fact-based vision, Barry was a champion.

Barry was a champion, more than I understood. I wish I had known him better.

Michael Schudson (Professor of Journalism, Columbia University)

How will I remember Barry? Always “Barry” when we spoke, always “Barry Schwartz” when I taught his articles and books in my seminars and only once “Prof. Schwarz” back when we first met in 1990.

So how will I remember Barry? Following his seminal work that concluded a long-time debate in memory studies – surrounding the causal relations between past and present and their respective effect over the shaping of the past – he stated that “while the object of commemoration is actually to be found in the past, the issue that motivates its selection and shaping is always to be found among the concerns of the present” (1982: 395).  So what will be the present needs, circumstances, concerns, and moment that will keep Barry in my life? 

I will remember Barry every time someone calls me “meydele” in a good way. Not from the beginning of our acquaintance but somewhere midway, Barry started calling me “meydele.” For those who are not familiar with Yiddish (myself included), meydele means a little girl.  It is sometimes used affectionately, and in and of itself, when directed at youngsters, is not derisive.  But in contemporary Israel, it has been used in a derogatory manner in some famous cases by Hebrew speakers who were adult males speaking to adult females, as a put-down, intended to suggest that the women against whom it was directed were subordinate. Barry, being an American Jew with no special ties to Israel until a very late point in his life, knew no Hebrew, had no knowledge whatsoever of the derogatory significance of the term, and most importantly, never belittled anybody. Respect was something he wrote about and had for people.  I did not mind him calling me this way but made sure he understood the meaning in my culture. Barry, like Barry, was curious about the difference between the cultures, and never forgot my reaction. In a note for a special birthday I had last year, he acknowledged that I “allow no one but me to call you a meydele. But you must admit,” he added, “that I’ve not abused that liberty” (2020). Indeed, he never did.

I will remember Barry every time a mass shooting in the USA makes its way to international media. Following such events, I used to write a short note to Barry, expressing my shock and sadness. He, who was no less sad than I was and certainly was a caring person, dismissed my mail and in return, would write plainly and simply without giving in to popular views and expected reactions. “What surprised me,” he wrote me following one such event, 

was the amount of publicity this event received. I realize that 15 people died and plenty were wounded grievously for the rest of their lives.  But this kind of thing never ends.  Today 15 dead; yesterday, 6; the day before that 10.  You get what I mean.  Here a school; there, a bank; elsewhere a subway. The whole country’s a shooting gallery.

Many of my friends blame the craziness on our gun laws.  But this is not the whole problem: the Swiss start shooting guns when they’re children and keep them in the house like so many brooms or paper towels, but they don’t shoot each other like Americans do.  Israel, too, is a “gun culture,” but shootouts are probably rarer than in Switzerland (2012).

I will remember Barry every time I will attend an annual meeting of the ASA and wonder about the accuracy of memory.  I first met Barry when I was a graduate student and my teacher from back home, Nachman Ben-Yehuda, who was himself Barry’s student in Chicago (back in the 1970’s), suggested that I meet Barry. I was working on high school reunions when the notion of collective memory was just at its start in this round in America. We met in one of those plastic-looking lobbies in one of those plastic-looking hotels – big enough for ASA to take place and bland enough for not being recallable later on. Following my inquiry about the notion of reunions, he had tears in his eyes; he emotionally talked about Odessa where his family came from, and how exciting it would be to go back in time and space. His memory of that encounter was different:

After a few words of greetings you took out a notebook and started asking me questions, which I answered and you recorded. You were actually taking notes! [sic] The people who walked by our seats and table seemed to envy you for your access to such a brilliant source of information – a suit which did not quite fit me (2020).

Did not quite fit Barry? Fit him alright but Barry never admitted to others and perhaps not to himself what a brilliant sociologist he was. As he received very few awards in his life and was rather removed from fame and glory, it was stunning to watch Barry taking those conferences very seriously when he was already well known and well published. He used to prepare real papers even at the stage where people mainly sought after him; he used to sit in a half-empty conference room listening to other people’s presentations and took notes(!).  The corridors where the real PR work operated did not interest him. He barely knew where they were.

But more than the above anecdotal moments (as important as they are), I will remember Barry and deeply feel a sense of intellectual loss on each and every writing day of my life. I’ve consulted with him on collective memory not too often, but it was always meaningful. “hi Barry,” I would write him when I felt that I was stuck with an important riddle, “is there any chance you have a couple of minutes for me?” I knew the answer would always be positive and always delayed – sometimes by long weeks, but once it arrived on my email it was like opening this great Christmas present from someone who knew exactly what one needs. The joke among us used to be that if you don’t want to work hard, don’t send the stuff to Barry. But not only did we work hard following the conversation we had, but he did too. Months after we corresponded over some research project, I could get a mail like the following one:

Regarding your home museum work.  I forgot to pose this question: What is the difference between a home museum and a shrine?  The most general definition of a shrine, after all, is that it is “a place at which devotion is paid to a venerated person.”  Surely, the home museum (which is by the way a new term) is an embodiment of history, a concretization of the past.  On the other hand, people would not visit this “museum” in the first place if they did not feel an unusual level of admiration, even adoration, for the person who occupied it.  One fails to get this feeling when visiting a general museum, like the Smithsonian Museum of National History, whose major intent is to inform, not invoke its visitors’ commitments.  This why I pose the question about the difference between museums and shrines.  A museum displays artifacts; a home museum, in its capacity to perform the functions of a shrine, displays relics that, by definition, are only found in shrines.  In this sense, home museums are anomalous. . . .    In these connections, I think you might like to read Edward Shils’s discussion of “The Presence of the Past in Artifacts,” which is part of a longer chapter on “The Endurance of Past Objects.” 

And a month later:

Vered, I just want to make a short comment on your comment. First, can you remember a single event in your life which is divorced from the place [emphasis -BS] in which that event occurred?  In other words, the memories of our own lives are integrated with the places in which they occurred.  Perhaps this is why I return to the neighborhoods of my youth whenever I return to Philadelphia.  Remarkably, many of these places are still standing.  Why do I take the trouble (and put myself in danger by going to these places, which are now violent slums)?  I suppose it has something to do with what Shils calls “the grip of the past”–a kind of “nostalgic gravitational pull.

And after all of that, he would apologize for not having enough time to put his comments (sometimes six pages long) aside for a few days, to “give me a chance to delete stupid and/or useless comment . . . . So forgive me for sending you comments which are not as well conceived as they should be.”

Do you get the picture?

I must have done something right in my life to deserve his time, his wisdom and his friendship.

Vered Vinitsky-Seroussi (Professor of Sociology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

I have before me a Culture Section button from Barry Schwartz’s time as Chair. As was then the custom, a new button was produced for members to wear at each ASA meeting, creating a sort of cohesive energy and recognition that served the cause of cultural sociology well. Barry’s design was larger than usual– about two inches in diameter– and deviated from the genre by being neither hip nor cute. It shows a grandiose scene of antique heroines in flowing gowns carrying standards into battle, captioned “Hope, Love and Beauty Overcoming Time.”  Like much of Barry’s work, it stuck in my mind for the way it seemed to imply an ironic but otherwise unfashionable rejection of the ironic, fluency in constructionism making a claim to the realist ground of some fundamental values.

I first encountered Barry’s kind and serious scholarship when he wanted to talk about my work on the long-term emergence of American and Australian national identities. In his kindness, he saw no status bar to initiating a conversation with an unknown junior scholar, and his encouragement and enthusiasm meant a lot to me. He was pleased I had written about persistence, as well as change, over centuries. But our conversations and debates in the following years had a common theme. Barry wanted to highlight as counter-constructionist some ontological truth in what persisted, and to downplay (while recognizing) the constructionist politics of memory. I often resisted, never quite feeling as he did the tension his wish for realist grounding imposed on constructionist analysis. But I think it is important for understanding his impressive body of work; most prominently, his original, deeply researched and strongly argued studies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in collective memory. And I’ve come to recognize that tension as profound and generative for any collective memory scholarship.

While Barry will likely be most remembered for his work on American collective memory, his interests were wide-ranging, and he created a model life of scholarship by following those interests from social psychology right through to biblical studies. Among his many contributions I continue to recommend Vertical Classification as a brilliant synthesis of semiotics with social psychology, by way of anthropology. He also broke ground with a sustained collaborative project resulting in NorthEast Asia’s Difficult Past: Essays in Collective Memory. Co-edited with Mikyoung Kim, this prize-winning collection investigated consequential collective memories well before many American sociologists were even aware of the contentious regional history now becoming more and more significant in global affairs. For the Culture Section, his legacy is also more particular. It was demonstrated most recently in the last of the wonderful series of section webinars on “Culture and Contemporary Life,” at which Robin Wagner-Pacifici spoke with Angela Gonzalez, Fiona Greenland, and Christina Simko on “The Cultural Politics of Naming and Commemoration.” I think it fair to say that Barry initiated the thread of scholarship and conversation on collective memory in the section. For much of our section’s history, our contributions to the interdisciplinary conversations on collective memory were something of an arcane specialty, attracting a steady stream of theses, books, and articles but not attracting wider attention. But the controversies more evident in the past year over lingering and reviving memories of the confederacy have evoked wider interest, even as collective memory scholars say, “of course.” We can thank Barry for the fact that cultural sociologists can claim a body of scholarship and expertise on these newly public issues. And in doing so, we can also thank Barry for the model of scholarly devotion he left us– pursuing intellectual and moral tensions wherever they lead, and in this way at least, perhaps, “overcoming time.”

Lyn Spillman (Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame)