September-October 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 7

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Sociologists at Work
in Boston

Boston upheld its reputation as the "Athens of America" as sociologists from around the United States and abroad converged on the city to share research and discuss "Worlds of Work," the theme of the ASA’s 103rd Annual Meeting last month.

The conference theme—speaking to both the increasing diversity by which work is organized and experienced and to the cross-national and historical diversity in work activities, institutions, and experiences—drew the third-highest attendance in ASA history with 5,458 attendees.

The meeting’s program, developed by President Arne Kalleberg and the 2008 Program Committee, included 470 breakout sessions, five plenary sessions, and six presidential panels focusing on topics tied to the conference theme.

The state of work was the subject of Kalleberg’s presidential address, in which he discussed the increasing risk, insecurity, and unpredictability of employment today. In the address, which was preceded by the ASA major awards ceremony (see article on award recipients in the November 2008 Footnotes), Kalleberg explored the causes and consequences of the increasing instability of jobs and its implications for policy.

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A New Perspective with
Patricia Hill Collins

Profile of the 100th ASA President

by Elizabeth Higginbotham, University of Delaware

I welcome this opportunity to introduce the 2009 ASA President, Patricia Hill Collins, to the sociology community. Patricia Hill Collins is the 100th president of the ASA and the first African American woman to hold this office. Her election is one of the many "firsts" that we are witnessing in this new millennium, as some of the barriers that have existed for women and people of color have lifted. What is the path that has brought our new president to the leadership of our national organization?

The Life

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Patricia Hill Collins

Patricia Hill was born in Philadelphia in 1948, the only child to Eunice Randolph Hill and Albert Hill. Her parents were directly affected by World War II. Her father was a veteran who met her mother in Washington, DC, where she had migrated to during the war to work. Pat is part of a cohort of working-class youth who had educational opportunities long denied their parents. During the 1950s and 1960s, most northern cities had public schools that were channels for social mobility. Schools were well funded, but navigating them was not easy. Pat was a quiet, but diligent, student in Philadelphia. Her education there was a stepping stone to Brandeis University. Writing in Black Feminist Thought, she said that, contrary to the support she had in the Black working-class community, the spaces she was desegregating were less welcoming:

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Sociological AIDS Research
Needs an Intervention

aids_ribbon_smallIn an April 2005 C-SPAN interview, Peter Piot, Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), proclaimed that AIDS has been redefined as "not just a medical curiosity but as an obstacle to social and economic development . . . and also as a threat to security and stability." While this statement may have been revelatory to those in the biomedical and clinical world who have never considered the social nature of AIDS, to the social science community it registered a big "duh." Since the beginning of the epidemic, sociologists have pointed out that HIV/AIDS is not solely an individual biological problem but is also a social phenomenon associated with social ties and other forms of social influences, be these cultural, political, economic, or environmental.

Sociologists have noted the imperative to understand and address social drivers that affect how, where, and why different groups of people are more vulnerable to or resilient against HIV infection. We have argued that, unless the social, political, and cultural contexts that affect individuals’ levels and experiences of "risk" are addressed, the overall impact of individual-level HIV prevention and treatment interventions will be limited. But, until recently, this perspective has had little currency in the collective discourse of the AIDS research community.

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