Letter From the Chair, Summer 2021

Photo: Terence E. McDonnell, University of Notre Dame

While this year may not have gone quite as I expected, it has been a real privilege serving as chair of the Sociology of Culture section. We’ve had to be creative to find different ways to connect with each other and accomplish the work of the section, but we’ve had great success serving members this year. Thanks to the efforts of the membership committee, the mentorship program has been a grand success and will continue into its second year with 44 volunteers. With the new Culture and Contemporary Life series we’ve extended our conversations beyond a single weekend in August. We’ve begun talks with the publications committee about ways to make the sections’ communications strategy more engaging. We’ve also made strides on proposals from our Diversity and Inclusion committee. Beyond the initiatives already announced, we’re working to establish a Race and Culture research network and assessing whether the section could offer research grants for BIPOC graduate students. We’re hopeful to have news on all of these agenda items after our council meeting this weekend. 

I’m so proud of the forward momentum we’ve made on these fronts. Section COO Clayton Childress, incoming-chair Ann Mische, and our incredible section council have made this important work a joy. I also want to celebrate all the wonderful ideas and passion that have infused the work of the section’s various committees. Everyone really stepped up this year and prioritized the section when it would have been easy to let things slide. Thank you for your contributions to the section. 

The 2021 Virtual ASA meetings are right around the corner. Put your weekend planning in our hands! On page 14 we’ve compiled a list of culture related events. There are too many to mention here, but let me highlight the panels put on by the Culture section. See you at these great panels (see details below): 

“New Perspectives in Sociology of Art and Music: BIPOC Artists and Creative Agency”

“Culture and Morality in Times of Crisis”

“Between Collapse and Utopia: Foresight, Imagination, and Social Change”

“Culture and Computation in Theory and Practice” 

Please make an effort to support the section and our colleagues’ excellent research by attending panels this weekend. Special thanks to Ann Mische and her planning committee (Fatma Müge Gocek, Robin Bartram, and Anna Skarpelis) who have done a wonderful job organizing them. Thanks also to all our organizers and participants for their contributions to the section. 

Graduate students! Look out for a wonderful panel discussion on “Studying Culture in Times of Crisis: Methods and Approaches” organized by our council’s graduate student representatives Nino Bariola and Samantha Leonard. 

In this issue we’ve printed the winners of the Douglas, Geertz, and Peterson prizes, who will also be recognized at the Culture Section Business Meeting on August 7th. Manning Zhang has a new edition of our “Four Questions” series with Matthew Clair whose book Privilege and Punishment: How Race and Class Matter in Criminal Court is a co-winner of the Douglas Prize for Best Book. David L. Altheide has an essay on what he calls “Gonzo Governance”— a concept inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s style of new journalism. We also have a recap of our last Culture and Contemporary Life panel on “The Cultural Politics of Naming and Commemoration.” Our annual job market profiles piece also appears in this issue— go and hire these excellent candidates from the Culture section. I’m sure they’ll make wonderful additions to your department! Our newsletter editors have also published some stories from the COVID job-market— let’s hope university budgets return to good health this coming job market season. Finally, we have announcements of new books and articles. Many thanks to the newsletter editorial team for putting together this pre-ASA issue in short order: Bo Yun Park (lead editor on this issue), Emma Brown, Manning Zhang, and Bambang Trihadmojo. 

I’d also like to say thanks to council members Victoria Reyes, Gabi Abend, and Samantha Leonard who are all rotating off. I’m excited to see what Ann Mische will do as chair and what new ideas incoming chair Vanina Leschziner and council members Jean Beaman, Amin Ghaziani, Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra and Amy Zhang will bring to the section.  I hope your summers have been restorative and best wishes for the coming year. Finally, I want to say thanks for the opportunity to serve the section as Chair–it has been one of the great honors of my career thus far.