May/June 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 5

download pdfDownload full issue pdf

2011 Logo

Chicago or Las Vegas:
Anticipate an Intellectual Event

Randall Collins, ASA President 2010-11

The theme for the ASA meeting this year is “Social Conflict: Multiple Dimensions and Arenas.”  The topic of social conflict is distinctive to sociology (and largely ignored by most other social sciences), along with our related concerns with inequality, action, and social change. The Program Committee has put together a menu to represent the best of the intellectual action, as well as the real-world dramatics of social conflict.

randall collins

Randall Collins

One of our three plenary sessions (Monday, August 22) will be devoted to “Fifty Years of Advances in Social Movement Research.”  Social movements has been the major area for studying how collective conflict (aka, contentious politics) is organized, mobilized, interpreted, and won and lost. It is one of the success stories of contemporary sociology and one of sociology’s best examples of integrating theory and research. Leading researchers from several generations will discuss what has been accomplished.

Another Plenary session (Saturday, August 20), organized by Elizabeth Bernstein, Columbia University, will survey the politics of sexualities. Sexual revolutions of one kind or another have been going on for over 40 years, together with their counter-mobilizations, making sexual politics a major site of contention, today—the age of Obama—as well as in what preceded and what will follow.

Major thematic sessions will include the collapse of the USSR 20 years later—the major geopolitical break in most of our lifetimes. Another special session will view the Middle-East revolts and revolutions of 2011. (The years 1848-49, 1989-91, and 2011 have shown a pattern of chain-linked revolts, whose mechanisms are just beginning to be studied.) Another panel will address the future of capitalism: taking this as a real question, how far will capitalism survive in the long run and what will its medium run conflicts be? There will be a session providing an overview of the intellectual career of Immanuel Wallerstein, especially appropriate in light of the upcoming publication of volume 4 of The Modern World-System. Another session will be devoted to comparative mafias and other forms of organized crime. (No, we did not create this just for Las Vegas, but it doesn’t hurt.)

Still Thinking of Chicago

As you know, the shift in our meeting site from Chicago to Las Vegas was the result of a conflict—an unsettled labor union action against Chicago hotels, that many ASA members felt was important to honor. In spite of the move from Chicago, we have preserved most of the work of Steve Warner’s local arrangements committee. In effect we are running a series of “Chicago in Las Vegas” sessions, including a panel on the Grant Park riot of 1968, with participation from some of the original Chicago Seven. On the Las Vegas side, Dmitri Shalin and a fast-moving new local arrangements committee have produced a series of sessions of this archetypal city of the new bubble economy, including its nation-leading collapse of the housing market. Another session, planned by Elijah Anderson (Yale University) and others, honors the Chicago tradition of ethnographies; this will take place in Vegas as a series of linked sessions or “mini-conference” including the politics of representation in field research, and the new frontier of visual ethnography.

There will be an opening Plenary on Friday evening August 19. This had originally been planned as a lead-in to the Chicago theme (Chicago as the birthplace and an ongoing leader of American sociology). Now it will lead off the Las Vegas meeting, with the panel organized by Andrew Abbott (University of Chicago), comparing the major schools of sociology whose innovations and rivalries have moved us through where we are today.

And of course a lot more. This ASA meeting has all the makings of a great intellectual event. I urge you to come early and stay for as many sessions as you can. Vegas is scorching hot in August, but we’ll be indoors and air conditioned. If you go outside, you will be in the strangest city in America. This should be a meeting worthy of being a sociologist, in every dimension of our interesting lives.

Back to Top of Page

Print this article discuss this article

Special Announcement:

twitter ad

Back to Front Page of Footnotes | Table of Contents