The following message was sent by the SSSI President Professor Thomas DeGloma via the SSSI Newsletter Notes Vol.46(2) in November 2017.
Friends and colleagues,
It is an incredible honor to serve the SSSI as President for the 2017-2018 year. This society has been deeply important to me throughout my career. My first publication was in our wonderful journal. Moreover, I have always found an intellectual home in the society and have developed many lasting connections at our conferences, which, as many of you know, is a common experience in our community. I have also had the privilege of serving as an Associate Editor of Symbolic Interaction, working under the editorial leadership of Robert Dingwall. Over the years, I have come to greatly value what the SSSI offers, and I pledge to do my best to further its mission and objectives.
Before I get into our current agenda, I want to thank my predecessor, Leslie Irvine, for her outstanding leadership during this past year. I also want to thank Beth Montemurro for organizing an incredibly rich and exciting conference in Montreal. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the rest of the 2016-2017
Executive Council, as well as all of the committee chairs and members, all of whom dedicated time and effort to make this society as strong and intellectually vibrant as it currently is. Without their work, we would not be where we are today. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome the new and continuing members of our Executive Council, including Thaddeus Muller (Vice President), Lisa-Jo van den Scott (Treasurer), Laurie Linhart (Secretary), and Julie Wiest (Publications Committee Chair), along with Melinda Milligan (President-elect) and Stacey Hannem (Vice President-elect). I can assure you that your elected officers and official representatives are already hard at work building the year ahead of us. A special word of thanks and acknowledgement also goes out to William Force, our SSSI Notes editor, Joe Kotarba, who chaired our Task Force on Diversity, as well as Scott Harris and his editorial team at Symbolic Interaction.
Looking forward, we are in a unique situation full of both challenges and opportunities. Here are some thoughts on our current state of affairs.
Across the field of sociology and beyond, we are witnessing a renewed interest in pragmatist theory and methods and symbolic interactionism. Consider, for example, the 2015 pre-ASA conference on pragma- tism at the University of Chicago, the 21st Century Interactionism Panel at the 2017 Couch-Stone sympo- sium in Milwaukee, and the vibrant mini-conference (one that I co-organized with Daina Harvey) on Prag- matism and Symbolic Interaction at the 2017 Eastern Sociological Society meeting in Philadelphia. These events drew scholars speaking on multiple topics from many different institutions. Consider also new books (way too many to provide a comprehensive list!) that demonstrate new interest in the roots of prag- matism (for example, Daniel Huebner’s Becoming Mead, our 2016 Cooley Book Award winner, or Norbert Wiley’s Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self, one of two 2017 Cooley Award winners), new directions and studies in interactionism (for example, Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman’s The Color of Love: Racial Features, Stigma, and Socialization in Black Brazilian Families, a 2017 Cooley Book Award Winner), and pragmatist methods (for example, Iddo Tavory and Stefan Timmermans’s Abductive Analysis, which builds on the work the C. S. Peirce to present a fresh methodological perspective). There are many more fine exam- ples, as well as numerous articles within the pages of Symbolic Interaction and other important journals which show that our area is alive, well, and blossoming.
Given this revival, this is an exciting time for the SSSI. However, this is also a time of challenges as our organization faces a number of structural changes. This is the first year we are operating on our new meeting model, which raises a number of issues concerning our identity as a society. It also raises some basic questions about matters like the continuity of membership in the society and opportunities for members to connect with one another and access the resources of the society. The Executive Council is working to address these and other issues.
This combination of revival and change presents us with great opportunities – both to define who we are as a society and to reach out and engage the broader field of sociology. To this end, we are committed to a number of projects and initiatives that, I hope, will allow us to capture some of this innovative potential. Please keep in mind – we need all of our current members to play their parts as we march into the future – by recruiting new members, participating in the society’s conferences and engaging in its dialogues (both within and outside of the organization), promoting the journal, and, when possible, by serving on SSSI committees.
With all of this in mind, here are some highlights for the coming year, along with some issues we hope to address.
- The Couch-Stone Symposium (our annual SSSI meeting this year) supported by The Lancaster University. Lancaster, UK, July 4-6, 2018. Thaddeus Muller is hard at work planning our Couch-Stone Symposium, which is our official annual meeting this year (and will be structured like a full annual SSSI meeting). The
2018 Couch-Stone Symposium will take place on the beautiful campus of the Lancaster University and be a cooperative venture with the European SSSI. Evidencing our growing international network, this conference promises to draw a diverse group of interactionists from several countries who will gather to share their research and discuss cutting-edge ideas in the field. I encourage all members to submit their work and contribute to this important and exciting event (see announcement in the current issue of SSSI Notes Vol46(2)).
We envision the conference to be a space where scholars from cultural sociology, symbolic interaction/ pragmatism, and psychoanalytic sociology can come together and discuss their different approaches to common themes. Indeed, we hope to intentionally organize sessions to promote such dialogue. I encourage all members to submit an abstract (see call for abstracts and panels, this issue).
- The Roots and Branches of Interpretive Sociology: Cultural, Pragmatist, and Psychosocial Approaches. A Pre-ASA Conference, August 10-11, Philadelphia, PA. The SSSI, the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology, and the Psychosocial Scholars Group, among others, are working together to organize a conference to precede the 2018 ASA meeting in Philadelphia. The conference will take place at the Philadelphia cam- pus of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (http://centercity.passhe.edu/meeting.php), about 10 blocks from the ASA hotel. This is a beautiful, contemporary facility, and we will have the capacity to host three or four simultaneous sessions each day, along with morning and evening plenaries.
- Membership: Renewing, Recruiting, and Building the Society. It is vital, given the transitions we are go- ing through, for current SSSI members to renew their memberships promptly. We must also reach out and find new members, from students to senior scholars in a variety of different institutions in different areas. Whenever possible, we ask that all members encourage their colleagues and students to join our great society. Julie Wiest, the Chair of our Publications Committee, along with Beth Montemurro, our out- going Vice President who is currently serving as our society’s Membership Liaison, are both working to facilitate this process. We need everyone’s help. Recruitment can by aided by promoting our conferences and our journal, and by sharing other opportunities and resources (such as this newsletter). As an added incentive, we are holding a membership raffle this year. The prize is a collection of the five most recent C. H. Cooley Award winning books! All members who renew will be entered to win. All members who recruit a new member will be entered an additional time for each new member recruited (report recruitments to me: firstname.lastname@example.org).
- The Continuing Importance of Diversity. Last year, Leslie Irvine and Joe Kotarba spearheaded an effort to address the issue of diversity and representation in our society. They organized a fantastic diversity luncheon in Montreal where several ideas were discussed among attendees. They also produced a report that contained a number of recommendations for actions geared to promote diversity in the SSSI. In my view, much of this work can and should be accomplished as we build our conferences and events, organ- ize our committees, and nominate our leaders. Inclusion and representation must take form in our ac- tions. Our successes and failures will be measure in our work itself. We will continue to work to address issues of diversity and representation in the SSSI.
- A Challenging Political Climate. Let us be clear. We are currently witnessing a heightened wave of at- tacks on the professoriate and on our institutions of higher education. Faculty are increasingly targeted for political speech in various public venues. Academic freedom is now quite commonly challenged or dismissed outright. Such attacks have already occurred multiple times, and very publicly, with regard to faculty at my own institution. I believe that, as a trend, these attacks on individual scholars represent an organized assault on the core principles of higher education. Simultaneously, we are seeing attacks on ac- cess to education (especially on our immigrant students such as those who are DACA eligible) and on certain areas of scholarship (like critical race and gender studies). Professional scholarly organizations are taking their stands and I think it is important that we do, too. I invite those who are interested in helping to develop a statement on these matters to reach out to me. Let us keep in mind that some of the most important founding thinkers in our field were also advocates of accessible and quality public education and academic freedom (notably, Dewey and Mead), and that the institutions we inhabit – those that house our work and our contributions to the world around us – are also historic centers of progress, civil rights, and democracy. Taken together, they are a vital cornerstone of any free society. Friends and col- leagues, we cannot afford to be fearful and silent in our time, so let us be loud, and proud, and defiant, and organized.
Over the course of the year, we will send updates through our listserv on these and other important matters. Until then, I wish you all the very best. Thank you for the honor of serving as President of this wonderful society.
Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY