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Sheldon Stryker Award Statement


The 2009 W.E.B. DuBois Career Award of Distinguished Scholarship is presented to Sheldon Stryker, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. This annual award honors a scholar who has shown outstanding commitment to the profession of sociology and whose cumulative work has contributed in important ways to the advancement of the discipline. Looking back at a career that spans six decades, one would be hard-pressed to find a scholar who has accomplished as much as Sheldon Stryker has during the second half of the 20th century. The body of his lifetime work, which continues to thrive, has been exemplary to all sociologists.

His career at Indiana University began in 1950 when the then-chair of the Sociology Department put together two teaching assistantships to create a position for him. He soon joined the faculty as an instructor in 1951 and has dedicated nearly every year since then to the university, taking time for opportunities of fellowships with the Social Science Research Council in Minnesota in 1959-60, Fulbright in Italy in 1966-67, and the Center for the Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto in 1986-87.

Stryker’s 1980 publication, Structural Symbolic Interaction, took Mead’s theory on Symbolic Interactionism and developed a version of it that emphasized structure and organization at the personal and societal levels, one that relies on scientific methods and quantitative analysis to test interactionist ideas about the self. In the spirit of W.E.B. DuBois, Stryker renovated Mead’s theory in ways that changed and advanced sociology for the better.

His chief focus has been in social psychology, especially in the development of Identity Theory, which seeks to formulate and extend insights of Mead in a theory that is tested using strenuous methods. Stryker has applied this restructured theory to the social movement phenomena, further examining sociological psychology in social structural contexts. In his groundbreaking book Self, Identity, and Social Movements (2000), co-edited with Timothy J. Owens and Robert W. White, he demonstrates this theory by highlighting the importance of one’s identity and self-esteem, providing a picture of how self and identity influences social movement recruitment, activism, and maintenance. As a result, Stryker presented a greater understanding of the social and psychological forces at work within political and social movements.

Garnering numerous awards over the years, including the Cooley-Mead Award for Lifetime Contributions to Social Psychology from ASA’s Section on Social Psychology and the George Herbert Mead Award for Lifetime Scholarship from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, Stryker has deservedly earned a reputation of advancing sociology as a discipline that is virtually unmatched by any other scholar over his six decades of work. His published work includes books, monographs, edited volumes, journal articles, and encyclopedia articles. In the tradition of DuBois, this award is given to Sheldon Stryker because of the impression that will be interminably felt as a result of his substantial contributions to the discipline of sociology.