2020 Special Sessions Information

Exciting Developments for PSA 2020 in Eugene

The Program Committee (and Program Chair, and Executive Director, and President) have all been hard at work over the summer to lay a foundation for an exciting meeting in Eugene next March. Here, I would like to share with you some of the exciting sessions coming together. Truly, I can only skim the surface of the invited panels and presentations that have already been set up. To see a full list, I’ll refer you to the PSA webpage listing of special sessions which is being updated almost daily now. But I want to try to whet your appetite here – and hope it will get PSA members excited about participating in the meeting and submitting their own work to present at the meeting.

As president, I have been trying to develop a strong theme – one that is represented in a range of thematic panels and presentations, and that runs throughout the meeting. We have already announced several important thematic presentations. Elijah Anderson will be presenting the Sorokin Lecture addressing issues of race in American society. Doug McAdam will be the Star Speaker (sponsored by the Emeritus and Retired Sociologists Committee) focusing on how social movements over the past half-century are related to the socio-political polarization that we are currently witnessing. Arlene Stein will be presenting on her recently co-authored book Going Public: A Guide for Social Scientists – a critical book for our times.

We also have multiple thematic panels focusing on the core of contemporary political divides, or the nature of those divides. Here is a short list of some of those thematic panels: Responses to Immigration Restriction; Microfoundations of Social and Political Divides; The Politics of Urban-Rural Divides; Populism, Authoritarianism, and the Prospects of Democracy in a Divided Society; Implications and Sociological Relevance of the 2020 U.S. Census; Underreported News Stories in the US Press and Call to Action for a Democracy in Crisis; and Protest in the Age of Trump.

We will also have a range of book panels (which are perennial favorites for PSA members) that complement the conference theme, such as the following: Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism, by Stephanie Mudge; The Patchwork City: Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila, by Marco Garrido; A Nation Divided: Interaction Orders of Race and the High Cost of Tacit Racism in Everyday Life, by Waverly Duck & Anne Rawls; and The Politics of Losing: Trump, the Klan, and the Mainstreaming of Resentment, by Rory McVeigh & Kevin Estep. And those are just a sampler of the many book panels that we’ll see in Eugene.

There is also a lot happening beyond the program theme. Foremost among them is a series of panels to mark the 125th anniversary of sociology at the University of Oregon and to honor its critical legacy in our discipline. PSA members will appreciate the important contributions that department has made to our association, as U of O faculty, students, and alums (who will be the focus of those panels) have been a backbone to the PSA for many years. The department is also hosting a reception at the Ninkasi Brewery on Saturday evening, which is bound to be a PSA event to remember. Thanks to UO Sociology Department Chair Michael Dreiling and his colleagues for all of their work the program.

Attendees will see lots of sessions in areas of traditional PSA strengths, such as race/ethnicity and gender, and (more recently) ethnography. Pedagogy is another perennial strength, and a lot is in development there. Brianne Dávila (Cal Poly Pomona) is organizing a series of teaching workshops in partnership with AKD. Brianne is also co-organizing a session on Ethnic Studies in secondary curricula. Dolores Ortiz (Oxnard College) is organizing a fascinating session titled Teaching in Trump Country. We’ll also have sessions focusing on professional development. Elizabeth Sowers (CSU Channel Islands) is organizing a panel on “how to publish in peer reviewed sociology journals” with current and former editors of well-respected journals across our discipline. And Chuck Hohm (San Diego State, emeritus) is organizing a panel on mentoring in higher education. Chuck is also organizing a pair of sessions on books addressing trends in higher education – an important topic for all of us!

In addition to those traditional strengths, we are working this year to expand into new areas. We are very interested in developing the Rural Sociology component of our program, as it relates in important ways to our program theme. Jennifer Sherman (Washington State University) is organizing a series of special sessions on topics such as: Rural Poverty and Policy; Rural Housing; and the Future of Western Farming. Other sessions in the works will also bring a rural lens to our meeting.

We’ll also have a lot of program depth around topics associated with sexualities. Jodi O’Brien (Seattle University) and the session organizers that she recruited have done a wonderful job of pulling together a series of compelling sessions, focusing on topics such as trans-centric issues; tensions around gender and sexualities; intersectionality & generations; terminology around sex, gender, and race; and sexualities in a rural context. We also have book salons complementing the topic – such as Miriam Abelson’s Men in Place: Trans Masculinity, Race, and Sexuality in America.

Other exciting areas include social movements – with Nella Van Dyke (UC Merced) organizing some great panels that will draw in scholars such as David Meyer, Rory McVeigh, and Doug McAdam. We will also have sessions addressing issues associated with public sociology & civic engagement, from both teaching and research perspectives.

For late evenings in Eugene (to give people an alternative to the hotel bar or holing up in their room), your Program Chair (Elizabeth Sowers) and I are organizing dessert forums on topics related to the conference theme. Thursday evening will be a forum revolving around the book Chosen Country: A Rebellion in the West by journalist James Pogue about the Malheur Refuge Standoff – a crucial and contested regional and national event. Friday will be a poetry event, featuring Oregon’s ex-Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Woody (an American Navajo-War Springs-Wasco-Yakama artist, author, and educator), along with an open mic poetry event organized by Lori Walkington (CSU San Marcos). On Saturday, we are planning a “town hall” style event to discuss the ongoing election, and sociology’s role in contemporary electoral politics led by a panel that is still in formation.

Finally, as president, I’m implementing a concept that I’ve had in mind for many years (having twice served as program chair). I’m calling them “presidential mentor sessions”. The idea is to recruit established scholars in a range of fields who will read over and make formal comments on two or three papers presented by less established members of our discipline (graduate students, or perhaps junior faculty – selected through the open submission process). That kind of professional development is at the heart of the PSA mission, and these sessions will be a great opportunity for that.

I could easily write for pages and pages about the exciting developments we have planned for Eugene. (Colleagues who have to read my emails know that is no idle threat!) I have tried to give just a taste of what is in store. I want to encourage you again to look over the sessions listed on the PSA website as we continuously update that information. You’ll see not just the panel topics, but who is lined up to present within them. I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I am by the time you get through the list.

—President Dennis J. Downey