Each year, ASA’s president chooses a theme on which to focus some of the programming for the ASA Annual Meeting—a tradition that ensures our meetings reflect the rich diversity of perspectives and subject matter in our discipline. 2019 ASA President Mary Romero chose the theme “Engaging Social Justice for a Better World." Her conception of her theme is below.
Engaging Social Justice for a Better World
Embracing a sociology that challenges social injustices and sustains scholar activists is pivotal in this time of increasing social inequalities. Sociologists possess the analytical tools and empirical data necessary to support communities fighting against injustices in many realms. These areas include: racial inequality, environmental degradation, immigration restrictions and law enforcement violence, housing segregation, unequal educational opportunities, disparate health outcomes, mass incarceration, and precarious violence against women and LGBTQ. Sociologists who partner with community groups, human rights organizations, civil rights lawyers, and other social justice advocates can make significant contributions to promote scholarship that can facilitate progressive social change.
In facing the growing normalization of racism, nationalism and xenophobia, many sociologists are critically examining the concept of objectivity and its role in maintaining hierarchies of power within the discipline. In exploring steps toward a more epistemologically sound construction of unbiased methodological processes in sociology, the following questions emerge: What does “objectivity” mean? What is the role of objectivity in our field? Are objectivity and detachment the only routes to scientific validity? Can the linkage between sociology and public engagement lead to a sounder science and weaken status hierarchies within the discipline? Does the reification of objectivity and detachment in the discipline serve to reinforce status hierarchies more than produce sound science? Does a sociology that converges scholarship with applications to social equality create meaningful opportunities to shape social and economic policies? How significant is public sociology and purpose-driven-science in connecting empirical work to social justice scholarship?
With this theme, Engaging Social Justice for a Better World, we encourage our colleagues to draw on our historical activist roots in U.S. sociology, beginning with W.E.B. DuBois, Anna Julia Cooper, Jane Addams, George Herbert Mead, and others. Placing sociology more prominently on the national and international social, economic and political stage requires greater public engagement. A sociological analysis focused on social justice rather than neoliberal agendas is paramount in this effort. Centering scholar-activist sociology is an essential step in creating an inclusive discipline and relevant, methodologically rigorous scholarship.
We invite sociologists to explore a wide variety of topics found in sociology and social justice. We encourage sociologists to proffer ideas and evidence about best practices for scholar activism, ways to successfully work with community activists, strategies for engaging with activist lawyering and civil rights organizations, methods of sharing sociological data with populations fighting for justice, and how to tell the stories of overlooked communities. We encourage sociologists to share their work on roles of scholar activism in public discourse and policy, communicating sociological findings to wider audiences, informing debates surrounding public engagement, scholar activism, and fostering public sociology and social justice in sociological inquiry.
Mary Romero, ASA President-Elect and Chair of the 2019 Program Committee, Arizona State University