2020 Special Sessions Information

Elijah Anderson to Deliver the Sorokin Lecture
at the 2020 Meeting of the PSA

We are excited to announce that Dr. Elijah Anderson will be delivering the Sorokin Lecture at our 2020 meeting. The Sorokin Lecture Grant is awarded by the American Sociological Association to support a lecture by the recent winner of a major ASA award. Dr. Anderson earned the 2018 W.E.B. DuBois Award for his Career of Distinguished Scholarship. His published books include rich ethnographies focusing on race in American life – sociological classics such as Streetwise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (1990); Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City (1999); and The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life (2011).

In our proposal to the ASA, we offered two primary reasons why Dr. Anderson would be such a welcome presence at our meeting. First, in recent years, the PSA has become a hotbed for ethnographic research (due largely to the vision and effort of Black Hawk Hancock), as indicated by its strong presence in our annual programs, including the innovative “ethnographers’ circles,” as well as in the special issue of Sociological Perspectives dedicated to ethnographic research (2018, 61(2)). Ethnography is a vibrant and exciting part of the PSA. Who better to tap into and to amplify that excitement than Elijah Anderson?

Second, Dr. Anderson’s research speaks clearly to the theme of the meeting: “Democracy in a Divided Society.” Race is one of the dominant fault lines in American society, and his body of research represents an extended exploration of the contemporary contours of race and race relations. His most recent book, The Cosmopolitan Canopy, focuses on the infrastructure that supports “civility” in urban America, and how it promotes and shapes everyday interactions across race. It is an insightful study of how we can, and sometimes do, bridge racial and other types of social divides – which will be a thematic concern of our meeting. We are confident that all of our members (not only ethnographers) will be interested in hearing from Dr. Anderson.
—-2020 PSA President Dennis J. Downey


Emeritus Committee Announces
Dr. Doug McAdam 
as “Star Speaker” for 2020 Meeting

One of the annual highlights of the PSA meeting is the Star Speaker presentation, sponsored by the Emeritus Committee. In recent years, presenters have included prominent sociologists such as Cecilia Ridgeway, Jonathan Turner, Pierette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Earl Babbie, and Michael Messner. For our 2020 meeting, the Emeritus Committee is pleased to announce that the Star Speaker will be Doug McAdam, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University.

McAdam is one of the preeminent researchers in the field of contentious politics and social movements. He has made multiple significant contributions to our understanding of how social movements emerge, develop, and bring about social change. The Civil Rights Movement has been the particular focus of his work. His first major book, Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency (1982) helped to fundamentally reconceptualize the nature and impact of movements. His monograph Freedom Summer (1988) is the classic account of one of the most dramatic campaigns of the movement, including fundamental insights about recruitment into high risk activism. He has published multiple books and articles with other leaders in the field of social movements – perhaps most notably, The Dynamics of Contention (2001) with Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly.

His more recent work has focused on the contemporary legacy of the surge of social movement activism of the 1960s. Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America (Oxford 2014), co-authored with Karina Kloos, presents the argument that our current socio-political polarization can be attributed in part to the integration of activist forms of political participation into mainstream (partisan) political processes in the post-war era. Specifically, they argue that the Civil Rights Movement (re)introduced “centrifugal pressures” into American politics, as activist engagement has shifted the critical mass of both parties away from the center. The result, for partisan politicians: “’playing to the base’ has come to be seen as more important strategically than courting the ‘median voter’” (2014:10).

Collectively, Dr. McAdam’s research provides an ideal background to speak to our conference theme, “Democracy in a Divided Society.” For PSA members who are students of social movements, or who have an interest in the politics of race in the United States, or who are concerned with the dynamics of contemporary politics – and my guess is that nearly all sociologists would check at least one of those boxes – his presentation promises valuable insights. It will be an exciting way to cap off the first day of our meeting. Thanks to all members of the Emeritus Committee for bringing us Doug McAdam, continuing the rich tradition of PSA Star Speakers.

Other updates on PSA 2020: In the coming months, we’ll be sending out additional information about plans for Eugene. While we’ll be sending some of that via our email list, we’ll also be posting frequent updates on the PSA website about items of interest (panels, receptions, events, etc.). Please check periodically for updated information. In the meantime, here is just some of the exciting programming that we’re planning . . . .

Thematic sessions on political divides:  Sociologists will be intrigued (and, most likely, alarmed) by the state of our politics next March, at the height of the presidential primary. We are organizing a series of panels to explore central issues and dynamics associated with our current social/political divides. Some will focus on divides that are perennially at the heart of PSA meetings – such as race, and gender, and immigration. We will also focus on divides that have deep roots but less contemporary visibility within our discipline – such as the urban-rural divide. We will also focus on particular dynamics (such as the psychology of socio-political polarization) and specific concerns (such as the contemporary role of populism). The meeting will be a great way to engage in what are certain to be the big issues next spring.

University of Oregon Sociology: Most PSA members know that the heart of Eugene is the University of Oregon. But few realize that it was the first sociology department in our region – and it was a full 125 years ago that the first sociology course was taught there. In recent decades, the U of O Sociology Department has been a beacon for critical sociology, with particular strengths in areas like environmental sociology. To mark the occasion, Michael Dreiling and his colleagues at the U of O are organizing special panels focusing on Oregon Sociology which will include current faculty and some of the many prominent alums – as well as organizing a special reception for PSA attendees.

Rural Sociology: Since the Rural Sociological Society split off from the American Sociological Society in 1937, the field has thrived – but has arguably been marginalized from the core of our discipline. That is particularly unfortunate in our current era when we so desperately need to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of rural discontent and its political manifestations. To take a step toward deeper reintegration, we are working with Jennifer Sherman (Washington State University) to develop a range of exceptional panels addressing rural sociology for our 2020 meeting – and we’ll start posting details about them soon. We know that rural sociologists will be excited about what is coming together, and we hope that sociologists less familiar with the rural West will take an opportunity to learn more about it.

Sexualities “mini-conference within a conference”: A special session on sexualities organized In Oakland (dubbed the “Salon de Sexualites”) prompted a rich discussion of issues across that field of studies. Some of the participants decided that they wanted to organize a series of focused sessions for 2020, which we are scheduling across one or two days in Eugene. We are also working with Jodi O’Brien (Seattle University) to organize panels of leading scholars in the field to talk about their work. For anyone interested in research and teaching in the field of sexualities, the meeting will be a great opportunity to engage with both established researchers and emerging teacher-scholars on big issues.

Author Meets Critics sessions have traditionally been some of the most popular at the PSA. This year, we’re rebranding them as Book Salons (following a shift by the ASA and because members have remarked for years that the “author meets critics” makes them sound overly contentious). At this early stage, we already have a number of authors lined up for book salons, and we expect more to come. Some of those focus specifically on the program theme; for example: Stephanie Mudge’s Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism (2018); Marco Garrido’s The Patchwork City: Class, Space, and Politics in Metro Manila (2019), and Waverly Duck and Ann Rawls’ A Nation Divided: Interaction Orders of Race and The High Cost of Tacit Racism in Everyday Life (forthcoming). You can check the webpage for periodic updates with additional information as more book salons are organized.
2020 PSA President Dennis J. Downey