Letter from Chair, Summer 2022

Finding Connection in Culture: Beyond the Whirlwind and the Treadmill

Ann Mische – Keough Faculty. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

As we approach the 2022 ASA meetings, many of us are not sure whether we are being sucked up in a whirlwind or stuck on a treadmill. We are caught between tumult and stasis, pulled from one “can you believe that just happened?” moment to the next while struggling to move forward with work and life. 

I start my final Chair’s letter this way not just as a form of throat clearing, but also to keep things real. I am currently in the midst of preparing for Culture Section

events at what by all indications will be a quite rich and exciting conference in Los Angeles, featuring highly engaged scholarship in response to the pressing problems and events of the day. At the same time, I know we are all reeling from the year’s news and carrying out a complex calculus of how to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from a pandemic that has not gone away. 

This letter is an opportunity to celebrate our membership and reflect back on the many ways in which we have worked to maintain social and intellectual community in the Cultural Section during challenging times. I am proud of the ways in which so many of you have pitched in to make that happen, despite ongoing stress and uncertainty, as well as competing demands on our time and attention. 

For those of you who can make it to Los Angeles, we hope to see many of you at our Culture Section sessions, organized by incoming chair Vanina Leschziner and the program committee, Fatma Muge Gocek, Omar Lizardo and Derron Wallace. We also have a Graduate Professionalization panel on “Culture in a (Post)Pandemic World,” organized by Nino Bariola and Amy Zhang. See page 5 of this newsletter for a full listing of our events. A huge thanks to all of our organizers, presenters, presiders and discussants on these exciting panels!

Please come to our Culture Section Business Meeting at 11:00 am on Sunday, August 7 (LACC Level 2, 406A.). This will be a great chance to connect with fellow section members and get more engaged in the life of our community. And please join us at the Culture Section Reception from 7-9 pm on Sunday August 7 (Marriot Gold Level, Gold Salon 2). The reception will be held jointly with the Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section. Thank you to our Reception Committee (Hannah Wohl, Laura Adler, and Omar Lizardo) for helping me think through the complicated logistics of organizing a reception under Covid conditions. 

If you can’t make it to ASA this year – no worries!  We completely understand. Please know that we are trying to find ways to keep you included in section activities. Stay tuned for the new ASA Connect platform, as well as for upcoming CCL webinars and for newsletter reports on Culture Section events at the conference.  

Whether you are in LA or not, we hope that many of you will sign up to participate in section organization and leadership via committees and other activities! We are especially in need of enthusiastic people to work on communications – including serving as webmaster, social media coordinator, and discussion platform moderators. Please look for invitations from Vanina on participation and service opportunities. And feel free to reach out independently if you would like to engage with the section in this way. 

On to the gratitudes and celebrations!  It truly takes a village to run a section, and I am honored to have worked with so many wonderful people on section activities throughout 2021-22. Here are some of the highlights:

We held three spectacular sessions of the Culture and Contemporary Life Series!  A huge shout-out to Yan Long and the CCL committee (Alejandra Cueto Piazza, Amin Ghaziani, Rachel Keynton, Ian Waller and Xiaohong Xu) for their thoughtful, creative work in pulling these three panels together. The CCL series was launched by Past Chair Terry McDonnell in 2020-21 as a forum in which Culture Section members can share their expertise in lively conversations about what cultural sociology has to say about pressing issues in the news. The series is a way to bridge professional and public sociology while generating an intellectual community between ASA meetings.

Links to videos from all of the sessions from the past two years can be found on the CCL YouTube channel. In 2021-22, sessions included the following (see summaries of the last two sessions in this newsletter):

We have worked hard to make the Culture Section a more welcoming place for all by deepening our commitment to Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. In my last Chair’s letter, I detailed multiple steps we have taken in this direction over the past few years, although we know we have more to work to do. Three recently launched projects that will continue into the coming year include:

  • The launch of the John Mohr Dissertation Improvement Grants, which will fund two racially or ethnically underrepresented graduate students at a public institution each year. Our first two awardees are Maia Behrendt (University of Nebraska and Edwin Grimsley (CUNY). I am grateful for the leadership of Clayton Childress in setting up this donor-funded award, building on suggestions from last year’s D&I committee. Thanks to the Mohr Award committee for thoughtful stewardship of our inaugural year. The committee was chaired by Lauren Valentino, with Nino Bariola, Julia Cheng, Jun Fang, Jonathan Mijs, and Rachel Rinaldo.
  • A demographic and climate survey conducted by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee chaired by Jean Beaman, with Elena Ayala-Hurtado, Elisabeth Becker, Barbara Harris Combs, Daniel Karell, and Mikki Liu. A sincere thank you to everyone who completed the survey! Stay tuned for the committee’s report as the basis for an expanded discussion on how to deepen our commitment to justice and inclusion within the section.  
  • The launch of a BIPOC Resource Sharing Network. This is an initiative of the Membership Committee, with the goal of creating an ongoing network of support and resource exchange for BIPOC scholars within the Culture Section. If you are interested in being part of this network, please submit your name on this google form. 

We are carrying the Culture Section Mentorship Program into its third successful year!  This year our Membership Committee – consisting of Marshall Taylor (chair), Tania Aparicio, Barbara Kiviat, Sam Leonard, Rachel Skagg, Ana Velitchkova and Amy Zhang – recruited 21 senior scholars to compose mentoring “pods” with 70 [AEM1] junior scholars. (See Marshall’s report later in this newsletter). We hope that these pods will have a chance to meet in the weeks around ASA and that they will  continue their consultations and mutual exchange through the coming year. 

A special thank you to our three hard-working publication award committees for the Douglas, Geertz, and Peterson Awards, chaired (respectively) by Juan Pablo Pardo Guerra, Mathieu Desan and Mariana Craciun!  You can read about the awardees and the committees on our website as well as on page 9 of this newsletter. By all accounts, these were difficult decisions as we had many outstanding submissions for all three awards.

Welcome to our new Section officers, including Monika Krause as Chair-Elect, Elisabeth Becker, Christina Simko and Hannah Wohl as incoming Council members, and Tania Aparicio as our Graduate Student Representative on Council. Thanks to everyone who ran for office, and to our Nominations Committee: Shai Dromi (Chair), Laura Acosta, Japonica Brown-Saracino, Meredith Hall, Mark Patchucki and Tad Skotnicki. 

Many thanks as well to our outgoing Council members Nino Bariola, Mariana Craciun and Matt Desan for their committed multi-year service to our section. And I could not have made it through this year without the always awesome, always cheerful, always calming work and company of Clayton Childress – best COO ever!

And finally, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to our Culture Section Newsletter team!  Bo Yun Park and Manning Zhang shepherded us through our Fall and Winter/Spring issues, bringing lively reports, thoughtful interviews, and carefully curated announcements. Manning was joined in the current issue by two new editors, Man Yao and Elizabeth Trudeau, who will both continue to provide leadership and coordination on our Communications team in the coming year. Thanks also to Bambang Trihadmojo for his good work as our webmaster for the past two years.  

(This is one more reminder that we are looking for a new webmaster and social media coordinator – please contact Vanina if you are interested!!!) 

And with that, I will sign off! I hope to see many of you in LA at our Culture Section events. And if you can’t make it, we hope to see you engaged in our Culture section activities and discussions over the coming year. You will be in capable hands with incoming Chair Vanina Leschziner.

May we all find light, connection and movement in our research on culture this year – carrying us through the whirlwind and beyond the treadmill!