January 2014 Issue • Volume 42 • Issue 1

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From the Executive Officer
sally hillsman

Sally T. Hillsman,
ASA Executive
Officer

ASA Assists U.S. Sociologists Collaborate Internationally

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The American Sociological Association has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support travel by U.S. sociologists to the International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress in Yokohama, Japan, July 13-19, 2014. This grant will be used to defray the costs of roundtrip airplane travel to the ISA World Congress for approximately 60 to 65 sociologists. This is fantastic news for U.S. sociologists.

Founded in 1949 under the auspices of UNESCO, the ISA includes sociologists from more than 160 countries and seeks to represent sociologists worldwide, regardless of their school of thought, scientific approaches or ideological opinion. In addition to about 5,000 individual members, the ISA includes official representation from national associations in 55 participating countries, regional and specialty associations, and other affiliated institutions. ASA is the official representative for the United States. The World Congress is therefore a unique opportunity for U.S. sociologists to present their latest research and theoretical developments, exchange ideas and scholarship, develop collaborative relationships, and engage formally and informally with scholars from around the world.

Knowledge about human and social systems examined from a worldwide perspective is crucial since many problems and challenges confronted by societies have broad implications that transcend national boundaries. As Michael Burawoy, ISA President and 2004 ASA President, stated, “There is also a growing awareness that the problems the world faces are of a global dimension requiring global solutions” (Footnotes, July/August 2011). Sociology has the capacity to contribute valuable insights on issues such as social and economic inequality, natural and environmental disasters, displacement of populations, health disparities, and the causes and consequences of conflict, terrorism, and violence. This NSF travel grant provides an opportunity for scholars with a global perspective to present their research at a major international conference.

At the last World Congress, in 2010, travel grant awardees noted the positive experiences of meeting face-to-face with international sociologists and the opportunities for planning future collaborations, for discussing manuscripts and books in progress, or for planning publications emanating from presentations. Pamela Irving Jackson, for example, received a contract for a book in July 2010 (coauthored with Peter Doerschler), titled Measuring Muslim Well-Being in Europe: Reducing Disparities and Polarizations, based in part on her presentation at the World Congress. While training was not a specific condition for a travel award, several awardees specifically noted the benefits of collaboration with, mentorship of, and feedback from experts in their fields.

Support for U.S. sociologists also advances the scholarship of those who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend an important international meeting. In administering the travel grant, the ASA will attempt to ensure inclusiveness as well as excellence by placing (as it has done in the past) emphasis on encouraging young scholars, underrepresented minorities, and women to apply for travel support.

ASA’s Long-Term and Ongoing Relationship with the ISA

The ASA participation in ISA activities and programs dates back more than 50 years, when the ASA hosted the Fifth World Congress of Sociology in Washington, DC, in 1962. Since then, the ASA, as an organization and through its leadership and membership, has participated in ISA activities and supported international scholarship and collaboration..

Individual sociologists who prepare papers and present research at the world congresses or other ISA meetings and who serve in leadership or organizing roles within the ISA, make the largest contribution. Data provided by the ISA indicate that about 400 U.S. sociologists attended the 2010 World Congress (the largest national contingent), with about 3,000 attendees from nearly 100 other countries. Many of ASA’s prominent members hold (or have held) elected office in the ISA as individual scholars. Immanuel Wallerstein (Yale University) was President of the ISA from 1994-1998. Michael Burawoy (University of California-Berkeley) is the current ISA President; Margaret Abraham (Hofstra University) is on the Executive Committee of the ISA as Vice President of Research (she is also the ASA Representative to the ISA).

Over the past several decades, the ASA has addressed international issues in various ways. ASA’s communication networks and publication systems, for example, have been used to provide opportunities for non-U.S. sociologists to write and publish in ASA sponsored venues. A column in Footnotes written by non-US sociologists is a regular feature that focuses on sociology in different countries and regions as well as on non-US events that have engaged sociologists worldwide. More international scholars have also been added to ASA journal editorial boards.

ASA’s sections have also broadened the intellectual dialogue on international issues. The Section on Global and Transnational Sociology was established in 2009 to “facilitate communication, expand networks, and provide a forum for intellectual exchange and debate among global and transnational sociologists, scholars, and teachers. The Section also seeks to engage with scholars from all parts of the world and from disciplines other than sociology that address global and transnational issues” (http://www.asanet.org/sections/global.cfm). The Sections on Peace, War, and Social Conflict; International Migration; Human Rights; and Political Economy of the World System are also focused on sociological issues that transcend national boundaries. In addition, the ASA Section on Mathematical Sociology and the Japanese Association for Mathematical Sociology hold regular joint conferences. The ASA Section on Rationality and Society joined the two groups in Denver, CO, in 2012.
 
The ASA has always encouraged international members and in 2008 introduced a new International Associate membership for sociologists in countries lacking strong economies. These international associates receive free electronic access to all Association journals. Individual ASA members annually contribute to a “soft currency” fund that subsidizes some of these international memberships.

ASA Annual Meetings

Our Annual Meetings (which draw more than 5,000 participants) include sessions that focus on international dimensions of sociological work. Over the years, some Annual Meetings have emphasized international themes: for example, in 2006, “Great Divides: Transgressing Boundaries” (Cynthia Epstein); 1997, “Bridges of Sociology,” (Neil Smelser); 1993, “Transition to Democracy,” (Seymour Martin Lipset); and1987, “Cross-National Research as an Analytic Strategy” (Melvin L. Kohn). In addition, all recent Annual Meetings have included sessions on international themes and issues. For example, the 2013 ASA Annual Meeting featured sessions on “Globalization, Collective Action, and Social Movements,” “Globalization and Macro-economic Structures,” and “Transnational Communities.”

At the 2013 Annual Meeting in New York, the Association was pleased to host Izabela Barlinska, Executive Secretary of the ISA, as a special guest. We have a special reception for all scholars interested in international research at every Annual meeting, and the ISA President made well-received remarks at the widely attended 2013 reception.

We are extremely pleased that sociologists from other countries are visible and active participants throughout the ASA Annual Meeting program. The ASA provides significant financial support from its annual operating budget so that each Annual Meeting Program Committee can invite international scholars to participate in the invited program. Many ASA sections also encourage international participation in their parts of the Annual Meeting program.

The ASA has a long history of commitment to international issues and scholarly collaboration, and will continue to place a high priority in promoting international scientific cooperation and scholarship as we become increasingly more global science community. See www.asanet.org/funding/isa_announcement.cfm for more information on how to apply for a World Congress travel grant.

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