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The American Sociological Association (ASA) presented the 2011 major awards at this year’s Annual Meeting on August 21 in Las Vegas, NV. The Awards Ceremony, followed by the Presidential Address, was well attended. These awards are given to sociologists for their outstanding publications, achievements in the scholarship, teaching, and practice of sociology, as well as for their overall advancement of the discipline. Below are the profiles of the awardees.
W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award
Harrison C. White
The W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award honors scholars who have shown outstanding commitment to the profession of sociology and whose cumulative work has contributed in important ways to the advancement of the discipline. Harrison Colyar White, Columbia University, is perhaps the most influential sociologist of the last half-century. Daring, original, and provocative, White has made transformative contributions to the study of organizations, stratification, culture, and economic sociology. His contributions, however, transcend specific subfields, embodying a powerful new vision of the fundamental nature and dynamics of social structures.
Trained originally in physics, Harrison White reimagined the nature of social organization, seeing—and finding innovative ways to measure—the otherwise invisible structure behind the buzzing complexity of social life. His agenda-setting work on "vacancy chains" envisioned organizations, as well as labor markets, as structures constituted by the movement of vacancies: sequences of positions linked together by the movement of occupants between them, as those hired to fill positions vacated by others create new vacancies in their turn. In Canvases and Careers (with Cynthia White), he produced an unsurpassed analysis of the transformation of an art world, as the academic system of French painting gave way to Impressionism. The Whites showed how aesthetic change could arise from a shift in the institutional structures that produced artists, organized their careers, and evaluated their art.
Harrison White is best known for the body of work that revitalized and transformed network analysis. Along with several collaborators, he created an innovative theoretical approach (and related methods) that could capture not only ties among individuals, but patterns of equivalent relationships. Grouping together those who had the same pattern of relationships to others, these methods revolutionized the sociological view of social structures, cultural structures, organizations, scientific communities, and many other arenas of social life.
White also stimulated the growth of economic sociology with his innovative work on markets. He argued that markets were not really made up of independent actors linked only by information about supply and demand as conveyed through prices. White instead envisioned markets as cultural constructions created by comparison processes through which firms, attempting to reduce uncertainty in their local environments, orient themselves to the behavior of other firms, setting prices and defining markets as they watch their immediate competitors.
Identity and Control, White’s magisterial work of social theory, envisions the dynamic and contingent interconnections of identities, stories, and structures that make up social life. He pursues the large theoretical question of how dynamic processes can produce and reproduce institutions and structures. White shifts the emphasis from network structures understood as fixed entities, to the ephemeral processes that continually create and recreate structural connections.
A world-renowned figure, White is also know for the astonishing number of major sociologists who have been his students or whose work has been fundamentally influenced by his vision. White developed new mathematical techniques for sociology, and he revitalized theoretical traditions dealing with structure and agency.
White’s work speaks to a number of disciplines outside sociology as well as to a wide array of fields within sociology. Many of his innovations have spawned whole literatures that continue to generate creative new work in the field. His mathematically complex and theoretically daunting work, has provided a powerful vision of new ways to imagine and to describe social structures reverberates across the discipline. It is this magnificent record of creative endeavors and its wide influence that the Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award seeks to recognize. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Harrison Colyar White has earned the W.E.B. DuBois Career Award in recognition for a lifetime of distinguished scholarship, extraordinary mentorship, and service to sociology
Distinguished Book Award, co-winner
Bullying, mugging, dueling, gunfights, looting, mosh pits, soccer hooliganism, snipers, domestic abuse, and on and on. Violence in its many different forms is all around us. Or so it seems.
Like many great studies, Randall Collins’s Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory (Princeton University Press, 2008) begins with social phenomenon of great interest and a counter-intuitive insight about that phenomenon. In his words, "if we consider that everyday life unfolds in chains of situations, minute by minute, most of the time there is very little violence." Instead of assuming that violence is prevalent and in need of explanation, Collins begins with the observation that although confrontational situations are common, actual violence is rare. How people avoid violence is at least as important as understanding how they engage in it.
Rather than pursuing violence with fervor, in most cases people do everything they can to avoid it. Therefore, "violence is a set of pathways around confrontational tension and fear." It is, however, the path less traveled. When taken, it is usually done quickly and clumsily. How exactly this is achieved is the empirical focus of this study, and symbolic interactionism is the theoretical lens.
Although symbolic interactionism is commonly taught in introductory sociology courses, rigorous and high-profile examples of true interactionist studies are rare. Violence is such an exemplary interactionist analysis, grounding larger social processes and outcomes in emergent interactional situations. Violence from this perspective is not a thing, not a property of individuals or organizations. Violence, rather, is a process, that takes place in a great many micro-situations. In seeing violence emerging in and through interactions between concretely situated individuals, Collins reveals his indebtedness to Erving Goffman and his own work on Interaction Ritual Chains (2004).
At the heart of Collins’ micro-sociological theory is the concept of "confrontational tension." As people enter into an antagonistic interactional situation, their fear/tension is heightened. These emotions become a roadblock to violence, and so flight and stalemate often result. Actual violence only occurs when pathways around this roadblock can be found that lead people into a "tunnel of violence." Collins identifies several pathways into this tunnel, the most dangerous of which is "forward panic." In these situations, the confrontational tension builds up and is suddenly released so that it spills forward into atrocities including the Rodney King beating, the My Lai massacre, the rape of Nanking, and the Rwandan genocide. Other ways around the stalemate of confrontational tension are to attack a weak victim (e.g., domestic violence) or to be encouraged by an audience (e.g., lynch mobs). Clearly, these pathways can also be combined, as when a schoolyard bully is encouraged by a crowd of classmates or when forward panic is stimulated by a group of bystanders.
How exactly to study the emergent character of violence is a significant challenge that Collins addresses very resourcefully. Although he did observe first hand some violent situations, the bulk of the data Collins analyzes is not from fieldwork but from underutilized data sources such as videotapes, audio recordings, photographs, memoirs, historical accounts, and diaries.
Although it comprehensively analyzes what it sets out to, this book self-consciously brackets some aspects of violence, including violence institutionalized in meso- and macro-organizations, warfare and geopolitics, torture and rape. Collins promises to take these topics up in a companion volume. Given all that he has offered here, we look forward to the sequel.
Violence is a distinguished book in its own right, but we cannot help but observe that it is written by a very distinguished author. Randall Collins is The Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the President of the American Sociological Association. With this award, he joins Charles Tilly as a two-time winner of the Distinguished Book Award. Collins’ The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change won the award in 1999.Back to Top of Page
Distinguished Book Award, co-winner
Marion Fourcade’s Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain, and France, 1890s to 1990s (Princeton University Press, 2009) is comparative-historical sociology at its best. Indeed, it is sociology at its best.
Fourcade, University of California-Berkeley, wants to understand individual identities in terms of the larger social structures that constitute them. In her words, "different societies create different types of individuals." She examines what economics is and what economists do in different national contexts and how those different definitions develop and change over time.
Her approach to understanding how different societies create different individuals is informed by the macrosociology of culture found especially in the work of Pierre Bourdieu, William Sewell, Jr., and the new institutionalists. From this perspective, a national culture is the institutional arrangement in which economics and economists are embedded. Institutions are understood here as cultural practices and processes ("logics") that are constitutive of the outcomes in question—they condition rather than cause. Fourcade focuses on three main institutional logics that together shape the unique approaches to economics found in the United States, Britain, and France: the state ("administrative order"), university system ("order of learning"), and economy itself ("economic order")
Fourcade argues that the institutional configuration of the United States has historically been characterized by a fragmented state bureaucracy, disciplinary organization of the university, and market competition in the economy. This leads to a definition of economics as a mathematical science independent of the state and economists as formally-competent professionals situated in universities (think "Chicago School").
Although this conception of the economics profession will resonate with many readers, Fourcade shows that there are other legitimate ways of doing economics based on the unique institutional logics seen in different national cultural settings. With its strong centralized state, elite civil service, and less professionalized universities, France is institutionally quite the opposite of the United States. Not surprisingly, the understanding and practice of economics in France is quite different, being more closely tied to the state and practiced by technical and civil administrators as well as university professors. Economics is thus more diverse and contentious in France than in the United States.
Fourcade’s third case, Britain, contrasts with both the United States and France. Not as laissez-faire as the former and not as statist as the latter, Britain is a sort of middle-ground between the two. But this is not to say that it is a hybrid; its national culture and institutional configuration makes it a unique third type. Fourcade characterizes the British type as "public-minded elitism," influenced by the "genteel" tradition of civil service and Oxbridge-LSE educations. This helps define economists as publicly-minded elites who are morally superior and have a right/duty to uphold British Culture and ensure social welfare.
These descriptions only gloss the many insights and subtleties of Fourcade’s work. As befits the winner of the ASAs Distinguished Book Award, Economists and Societies speaks broadly to all sociologists, while informing the work of specific constituencies: sociologists of culture and knowledge, economic and political sociologists, and comparative-historical sociologists. The extent of Fourcade’s contribution is evidenced in the recognition it has already received from various ASA sections, including winning the Culture Section’s 2010 Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book, honorable mention for the Comparative and Historical Sociology Section’s 2010 Barrington Moore Award for Best Book, and honorable mention for the Science, Knowledge and Technology Section’s 2010 Robert K. Merton Award for Best BookBack to Top of Page
Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award
Maxine P. Atkinson
Maxine P. Atkinson, professor and head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at North Carolina State University, has made significant contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning, mentoring of graduate students and new faculty, and the broader teaching movement. Her work in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL); involvement in the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning and ASA Departmental Resources Group (DRG); numerous influential publications; and presentations at local, regional, and national venues provide an overview of her significant contributions to teaching and learning. Her work shows the knowledge of a 25-year career devoted to effective teaching.
Atkinson has won numerous teaching awards and other recognitions for her work. A sample of awards includes the Distinguished Teaching Award, Southern Sociological Society (2004); The Hans O. Mauksch Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Sociology, ASA Section on Teaching and Learning (2007); and the Carla B. Howery Award for Developing Teacher-Scholars, ASA Section on Teaching and Learning 2010. Maxine was the first woman at NC State to win the Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2009, the most prestigious award given for teaching excellence by the North Carolina University system.
By developing materials to enhance the teaching and learning of sociology for both undergraduate and graduate students, mentoring new teachers, and offering workshops for instructors of sociology, Atkinson has had an impact on instructors across the country. She has published numerous influential papers in Teaching Sociology on topics such as integrating data analysis skills into the undergraduate sociology curriculum, on quantitative reasoning, and on what we know about teaching and learning in sociology. She is also in demand as a speaker and departmental reviewer.
Her publications and contributions are often in collaboration with her own graduate students, thus demonstrating her mentorship skills, collegial manner of work, and her inspiration to others to become involved in SoTL activities. She has focused on scholarly areas that need reflection and research to move ideas to a new level. Her presentation as the recipient of the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning Hans Mauksch teaching award, "The Sociology of the College Classroom," illustrates this point, demonstrating breadth and depth in thinking about and conducting research on the sociology of teaching and learning.
In collaboration with her graduate students, her recent published work continues research into the college classroom. In 2009, Teaching Sociology published two articles: "Introduction: From the Outside Looking In: The Sociology of the College Classroom," with Kristine Macomber and Sarah Rusche; and "Sociology of the College Classroom: Applying Sociological Theory at the Classroom Level," with Alison R. Buck and Andrea N. Hunt. Her list of publications on teaching is a testament to her devotion to SoTL scholarship. She has also served on the Teaching Sociology editorial board for six years.
Atkinson’s involvement in the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning shows the breadth of her contributions to the field. These include editor of the section newsletter, reviewer, committee member, taskforce member, council member, and advisory board member for the ASA Departmental Resources Group. She has played key roles in national teaching initiatives such as the NSF/ASA integrating data analysis project and Preparing Future Faculty program.
One letter supporting her nomination said, "Maxine has been a significant mover and shaker in the teaching movement within sociology. Maxine has made a career of mentoring better teachers of sociology nationwide and advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning." Another states, "Maxine has been…a pivotal figure in promoting the importance of teaching." As president of the Southern Sociological Association she promoted teaching through various channels, including the establishment of a teaching award and her presidential address: "The Scholarship of Teaching: Conceptualizations and Implications for Sociologists." This address contributed new dimensions to the field of SoTL.
Atkinson has acted as a social change agent, working to promote and improve teaching, learning, and SoTL in our discipline. She has a determined passion for teaching and learning in the discipline and beyond, and she has used her positions in the discipline to further excellence in teaching and learning. She has garnered respect and appreciation from professional colleagues at the institutional, state, regional and national levels.
Whether leading workshops on teaching, publishing in top-tiered journals, or mentoring instructors and graduate students across the nation, Maxine embodies the qualities of a scholar-researcher and practitioner in teaching and learning.Back to Top of Page
Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology
Henry J. Steadman
Henry J. Steadman, President of Policy Research Associates, is a world-renowned scholar in the sociology of mental health and criminal justice. In a distinguished career of more than 40 years, he epitomizes the sociological practitioner who weaves fundamental contributions to knowledge with significant practical applications. He is the author of eight books, 20 book chapters, more than 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, and numerous reports. His publications are strongly focused on how research findings can be incorporated into new treatment decisions and policies. The patient protection policies and treatments in place today for mental health populations with abuse histories are a direct result of Steadman’s pursuit of research-based evidence.
True to the spirit of this award, Steadman has embraced the role of sociological practitioner throughout his career. A mentor to many young and mid-career sociologists and clinical and legal scholars, Steadman has been enormously effective in institution-building as well as in scholarship. In 1971, he joined a group of research sociologists at the New York State Office of Mental Health in Albany. For 17 years, he directed the most visible and highly-regarded state mental health research unit in the United States. A series of innovative studies were undertaken during this time on the career contingencies of persons detained as ‘criminally insane’ and released to the community following a Supreme Court decision. His team tracked releasees back into the community and showed that they were no more dangerous than others.
Steadman’s research called into question the capacity to predict future dangerous behavior—far too often relied on as the basis by which courts deprive mentally ill persons of their life and liberty. Through publications on these and related cognate issues, Steadman pioneered a field of sociological research that brought empirically based knowledge to the courtroom and reframed the basis of making clinical and forensic judgments. This work propelled Steadman quite justifiably to the forefront of investigators applying sociological concepts and methods to the study of mental health and criminal justice systems.
In 1987, Steadman co-founded Policy Research Associates, a research firm dedicated to advancing the field of behavioral health services research for vulnerable populations (he is currently president). He is also a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Network on Risk Assessment and the Network on Mandated Treatment. Over the past 20 years, Steadman and his colleagues have produced influential research on the risks of violence among mental patients (much lower than popularly believed) and the coercion that can be associated with clinical treatment. Importantly, this work led to several risk-assessment scales and measures of perceived coercion that are now widely used in the research and clinical practice fields.
Steadman has also led and carried out numerous evaluations of Federal demonstration programs throughout the United States that were focused on persons with mental illness in the justice system. This work yielded numerous policy briefings and regional forums for judges, attorneys, correctional administrators, law officers, mental health clinicians, and other interested citizens. Over the past decade, these sessions have attracted thousands of participants. Steadman has also been regularly sought as an advisor to Federal and state agencies, private foundations, and professional associations. His current projects include: the National GAINS Center for Evidence-Based Practices in the Justice System, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Mental Health Court Study, the CMHS Transformation Center, and SAMHSA’s Technical Assistance and Policy Analysis Center for Jail Diversion.
Steadman has been honored with awards by professional societies and advocacy groups, including the Distinguished Service Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2007); Carl A. Taube Award for Outstanding Contributions in Mental Health Services Research from the American Public Health Association (2005); the Isaac Ray Award from the American Psychiatric Association for outstanding contributions to the psychiatric aspects of jurisprudence (1999); Distinguished Contribution to Forensic Psychology from the American Academy of Forensic Psychology (1998); Saleem A. Shah Award from the State Mental Health Forensic Directors (1994); Philippe Pinel Award from the International Academy of Law and Mental Health (1988); and the Amicus Award from the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (1987). He received the William Foote Whyte Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Sociological Practice and Public Sociology in 2010.Back to Top of Page
Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues
The Award for Excellence in the Reporting of Social Issues goes to New York Times columnist and PBS Newshour commentator David Brooks. As the nominating letter for Brooks stated, "Few commentators in the public sphere, from anywhere on the political spectrum, have done as much as David Brooks to promote public understanding of and appreciation for the social sciences in general and sociology in particular in recent years." Over the years, Brooks’s columns have used or explored, either explicitly or implicitly, such core sociological themes as social capital, status, trust, embeddedness, networks, norms, and the impact of social structures of life chances. His columns regularly mention sociologists (ranging from senior scholars to graduate students) by name and provide a wide audience for their work. For example, his recent columns have described or otherwise promoted the work of scholars including Manuel Castells, Christopher Jencks, Lisa Keister, Annette Lareau, and Robert Wuthnow. He has criticized economists for an insufficiently social view of human nature, insisting that economics must "get human nature right" (Brooks). For these accomplishments and others detailed in his nominating letter, David Brooks is the recipient of the 2011 Reporting of Social Issues Award.Back to Top of Page
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology at Duke University, is the 2011 recipient of the Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award (CJF). This award—named for Oliver Cromwell Cox, Charles S. Johnson, and E. Franklin Frazier—recognizes outstanding scholarship and activity focused on racial issues, especially those affecting "African American or similarly disadvantaged racial/ethnic populations." Like the award’s namesakes, the award recognizes individuals (and groups) whose work seeks to improve conditions globally, to address directly issues of social justice. A final consideration, mentoring (especially students of color), has evolved from previous CJF committees. The CJF Award Committee felt that Eduardo Bonilla-Silva embodied all of the very best qualities of Cox, Johnson and Frazier.
After completing graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Eduardo had academic appointments at the University of Michigan, Texas A&M, and now Duke. No matter his location, he always focused on issues related to race, through his courses, his research, his public speeches, and in his everyday encounters with students and colleagues. The intersection of Eduardo’s biography and history has compelled his work, infusing it with not just intellectual curiosity but intellectual passion.
His first major article,"Rethinking Racism," was published in American Sociological Review. It was followed by a reply to a comment, titled "The Essential Social Fact of Race." Other works included in their titles such phrases as "This Is a White Country"; "I’m Not a Racist but . . . "; "Fight the Power!"; "How to Talk Nasty about Blacks without Sounding Racist"; "Anything but Racism"; "When Whites Flock Together"; and "Every Place has a Ghetto." The impression one gets from this list, of fusing intellectual curiosity and passion, is underscored when looking at his book titles: White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era; Racism without Racist; White Out: The Continuing Significance of Racism (with Ashley w. Doane); White Logic, White Methods (with Tukufu Zuberi); and forthcoming Anything but Racism: How Social Scientists Minimize the Significance of Race.
Eduardo does not hide behind the canons of science once his well-theorized, empirical story is told, instead he often goes on and into the public eye to preach it. In this sense, he has become a public intellectual, doing his own kind of public sociology—beyond trying to understand the world, he is trying to change it. For almost his entire career, sociology’s annual meetings—national or regional—have become venues for Eduardo to challenge our discipline. For Eduardo, advancing knowledge is never enough. Here again, phrases from the titles of his talks are informative: "The Invisible Weight of Whiteness"; "When Whites LOVE a Black Leader: Race Matters in Obamerica"; and "Was Blind but Now I See!" There is a passion to his work.
Eduardo has not been afraid of getting outside of sociology to spread the word, to argue for the importance to his work. A wonderful title in this vein occurred when Eduardo was at Texas A&M, "Aggieland" as it is known in Texas and on campus. In an attempt to facilitate racial and ethnic diversity on the campus, Robert Gates, then-president, proposed a new admission policy. Finding it seriously flawed, Eduardo wrote a piece titled "Aggieland or Crackerland
Eduardo has become an almost heroic figure to graduate students and young faculty colleagues. Every letter supporting his nomination for the CJF Award cites his tireless work on behalf of students of color. He has become an important bridge for students moving from undergraduate to graduate studies. As one letter says, "He has engulfed my family as if it were his own." He understands well the risk of living at the edge of larger social systems. It is there, in particular, that he has helped to bring students of color in; to make them feel that they have an important, legitimate voice; that they are not simply to be tolerated but to be embraced. As a former student, now assistant professor, says in his letter: "The example he sets with his voracious intellectual appetite and tireless work ethic, pushes me every day to be a better scholar, mentor, and teacher who seeks to engage the Ivory Tower and the Public at Large in . . . debates around inequality."
Eduardo has urged us to see that no matter how it is papered over, whether with words or deeds, racism continues to exist. The evolution of our social norms has often masked how something like racism persists, reproducing inequalities in forms old and new. Eduardo has made it his job to keep poking and probing to find these inequities and shine a light on them, including in the academy, even in sociology itself!
As one of his nominating letters says, "I hope that you see in him, as I do, the embodiment of the dreams of those whosee names are upon this award." Indeed, we do.Back to Top of Page
Public Understanding of Sociology Award
This year, we honor Barbara Risman (Professor and Head, Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois-Chicago, former President of Sociologists for Women and Society, and Executive Officer and Board Member of Council of Contemporary Families) as the recipient of the 2011 Public Understanding of Sociology Award.
For the past 20 years, Risman has been contributing in a thoughtful, provocative and insightful way to the public understanding of sociology not only generally (i.e., "as a consistent advocate" for expanding sociology’s role and influence), but also specifically as a contributor in her own right to the public understanding of sociology in the areas of gender, marriage, and family.
Through research, meticulously designed and thoughtfully carried out, with considerable attention paid to methods that enhance her credibility as a researcher who can be counted on for providing accurate general information. Her research reveals her dogged determination to approach the substantive issues confronting American families in a non-partisan manner. Risman has come to be recognized as sociologist with an impressive research record.
Risman’s sociological approach to research on the subject of gender inequities has been both from the standpoint of treating gender as a "visible" structure to be observed in the myriad ways we interact and live together and also from the standpoint of conceptualizing gender as learned in the sense that "we choose to reproduce gender." It thereby expresses a certain continuity with the past and a present-centered awareness of current sociological questions.
Perhaps then it may be said that, in a not-so-subtle way (i.e., through research, report writing, and essays grounded upon facts and reasoning), Risman has been working hard to steer sociological thought away from marriage and family in the traditional sense toward thinking of marriages and families as they are in the many different ways they reveal themselves. Risman also reminds us of the reality of "family diversity" and of the fact that the historical institution of the American family has long been, and still is, going through a process of change.
In that sense, her scholarly focus on feminist issues, as well as her leadership as Executive Officer of the Council on Contemporary Families, demonstrated her ability to both empirically study the causes and consequences of those changes, and to develop pragmatic strategies to advance social justice and freedom for families.
Risman’s "tireless effort" to bring our work in the social sciences generally, and of sociology in particular, to the attention of the press, the general public and, more recently policy makers, is to be commended.
Risman’s commitment to the development of a sociology of gender, sexuality, marriage, and family that is inclusive and, thereby, responsive to the "fears" and concerns that such changes have evoked makes her work understandable to diverse audiences.
Risman’s work is informed by her own family’s immigrant experience and religious background. She was born into a traditional Jewish family of Russian immigrants to the United States.
Yet, in so far as she is perhaps the first to acknowledge that gender inequities belong to the category of the things that "we can get beyond" as distinct from the things that we can’t, her work makes her colleague’s work so much easier to understand as it shows what we can accomplish together by a concerted effort and within the limits of a scientific perspective.
In this context, Barbara Risman is to be recognized for her individual achievements, her service, and the leadership that she has shown on many different fronts.
In the words of Maxine Atkinson, "As a board member of the Council on ContemporaryFamilies, I have seen her most intensive work on public understanding through that organization."
Barbara has been a significant spokesperson for the organization (as well as for her research that’s been presented to the organization). Meanwhile, she has helped to build our media program to be perhaps the most cost-effective media program a non-profit think-tank could hope to have. This captures some of the scope and value of her contribution. She has built an organization that will far outlast her own
Time to help the public better understand sociology and other social sciences.Back to Top of Page
Jessie Bernard Award
Taylor’s career is characterized by courageous and innovative scholarship, innovative teaching, and selfless mentoring that is evident throughout the field today. One of Taylor’s major contributions has been bringing gender into social movement studies and in connecting gender and sexuality studies. She did this, not just through her work on the women’s movement (Survival in the Doldrums), but also through a study of a movement by women that didn’t look like a stereotypical women’s movement. Rock-a-by Baby: Feminism, Self-Help, and Postpartum Depression, her archival, observational, and interview study of women who mobilized around feeling that their postpartum depression was misunderstood and ignored, forced both the field of social movements and gender scholars to rethink some of their assumptions. It didn’t fit many gender scholars’ assumptions. The social movements literature took note had previously ignored most movements of women, instead focusing on movements directed against the state (this one wasn’t) and, for decades, ignored the role of emotions in favor of "cooler" concepts such as resources, interests, and "political opportunity structures." In this movement, expressing anger at doctors was key. The book also made contributions to the sociology of culture and sociology of emotions.
Her most recent book, Drag Queens at the 801 Cabaret, winner of the Sex and Gender Sections distinguished publication award in 2005, is about female impersonators. It is a qualitative study of their performances and off-stage life. In an innovation, she used focus groups of mainly heterosexual, conventional, non-cross-dresssing audience members from the performances to see how the transgressive aspects of the performances affected their thinking about gender. Her current project is on the social movement for gay marriage rights. Throughout her extraordinarily productive career, Taylor has brought an open mind and fresh perspectives to everything she has studied. She has mainstreamed gender into the field of social movements and brought more thinking about social movements and sexuality to the sociology of gender.
As an educator and mentor on gender issues, Taylor is also impressive. She has won many teaching awards at both Ohio State University and University of California-Santa Barbara. She is also the co-editor of Feminist Frontiers, one of the best-selling anthologies for introductory Women’s Studies or Sociology of Gender courses, which is about to come out in its 8th edition. Through this important book, she has influenced generations of undergraduates.
Taylor is also an indefatigable mentor of graduate students, often publishing with students and helping them navigate the job market. Her efforts did not go unnoticed—she was awarded the 1995 SWS mentoring award. Today, many of her students are successful academics continuing to contribute to gender studies.Back to Top of Page
The ASA Dissertation Award honors the best PhD dissertation for a calendar year from among those submitted by advisors and mentors. The winner of this year’s award is Alice Goffman, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mitchell Duneier served as her dissertation advisor with Viviana Zelizer, Paul Dimaggio, Devah Pager, and Cornel West.
Drawing on intensive fieldwork with unemployed young men in Philadelphia, Goffman’s thesis gives us a view of mass incarceration from the ground. It is a close-up account of the profound impact that the prison boom and the war on drugs are having on everyday life in the American ghetto.
Goffman’s thesis focuses on a group of loosely connected young men who spend their days enmeshed in one aspect of the criminal justice system or another: entangled in court cases, probation and parole sentences, living in halfway houses and on house arrest. They frequently have low level warrants out for their arrest, mostly for technical violations of their probation or parole, for failure to show up to court, or for unpaid fines. The thesis first describes the sophisticated tracking techniques that a growing number of special police units now deploy to make their arrest quotas. Then it takes the reader into the world of young men living with a liminal legal status, in their words, "on the run." Goffman explains how boys learn to successfully spot and hide from undercover police; how they come to see their mothers’ homes as last-known addresses, and their closest kin as potential informants. By the time they reach adulthood, young men recognize that the activities and relations that should help them constitute a respectable, law-abiding identity—going to work, attending the birth of a child, or maintaining a stable and public daily routine—function instead as a net of entrapment. Staying out of jail requires secrecy and unpredictability—strategies deeply at odds with any effort to be responsible fathers, spouses, or workers.
After bringing the reader deep into the lives of young men "dipping and dodging" the police, the thesis switches gears, taking on the perspective of these young men’s mothers, girlfriends, and neighbors. Through first-hand accounts of early morning raids and lengthy interrogations, Goffman documents the sustained pressure the police place on female family members to inform. As the police destroy their homes and threaten to take their children away, women are forced to choose between their own security and their partner or son’s freedom. In painful detail we learn how familial and romantic relationships unravel in suspicion and betrayal.
Yet for all this, Goffman’s thesis never depicts these men and women as hapless victims, immobilized in webs of control. Some of the most interesting parts of the dissertation involve the creative ways that residents use the police and the courts for their own purposes, in ways the authorities never intended. For young men with few employment prospects, warrants become a ready excuse for failures in the labor market. The bail office becomes an alternative banking system, and even jail occasionally serves as a safe haven when the streets become too dangerous. In anger and frustration, women harness the threat of the police to control and punish the men in their lives. They also organize meaningful routines around court dates, bail payments, and jail visiting hours. An entire branch of the informal economy has developed to supply the goods and services that legally compromised people seek to evade the authorities, including clean urine and fake documents.
In the penultimate chapter Goffman shows how the threat of prison has come to permeate the social fabric of the community, creating a moral framework through which residents carve out their identities, negotiate right from wrong, and demonstrate their attachment to one another. Her dissertation ends with the assertion that the collective effect of imposing a legally precarious status on large numbers of young men results in far more going to prison, returning home as convicts, and ultimately, amounts to a denial of basic citizenship rights for a large segment of the country’s African American poor. Goffman makes a convincing case that the systems of policing and surveillance currently deployed in American ghettos are not producing the disciplined subjects one might expect in some prison-like panopticon, but rather a community of suspects and fugitives who are living underground, in fear of capture and confinement.
This year’s thesis is not only a major contribution to the study of U.S. poverty and racial inequality, but a landmark contribution to urban ethnography. It should serve to inspire another generation of sociologists to see the value of long-range, respectful, and observant participation in everyday life.