homeprev issuesexecpublic affairsSTAFFASA home
The Executive Officer’s Column

Council Launches ASA Centennial Planning

At its January meeting, ASA President Barbara Reskin placed the topic of Centennial Planning high on the agenda of the ASA Council. While 2005 and the 100th anniversary of the American Sociological Association has been referenced in Council, it has not been a prominent item on the agenda for discussion and exchange. The mid-year meeting in January provided just the right setting for Council to engage in creative thinking about how best to celebrate the centennial year of the Association in a way that addresses the history of ASA and of sociology and future opportunities for the discipline.

How best to celebrate the Centennial is a large charge. As the primary elected body of the membership, it makes good sense to engage Council in this task. While a project like this will need to be delegated to a Centennial Committee, it also needs guidance from Council as to the “touch and feel” that Council wishes to convey about the discipline and about ASA through special projects, activities, and events. Related discussions have already been launched. The Committee on Publications and journal editors have begun to think about what the ASA journals might do individually or as a group to mark this important date. Publications Committee Chair Bernice Pescosolido has asked the Committee to consider what types of scholarly works might enrich the discipline and to generate ideas about special publications, including special issues of journals, “reviews,” and so forth. President Reskin, Past President Massey, Secretary Kalleberg, and I along with Doug Kincaid, ASA representative to the International Sociological Association (ISA), have been discussing how best to reach out to the international community of sociologists to launch the next century hand-in-hand with sociologists around the globe. (With the XV World Congress of Sociology taking place in July 2002, it might be an apt time to take up this issue with sociologists across nations.)

At these early stages of thinking and planning, President Reskin and other officers want to ensure that the conversation is wide-ranging and inclusive. This is very much the tone that President Reskin set and the spirit that animated ASA Council deliberations on January 27th. To stimulate discussion, I provided a background memorandum to map what some possibilities are. These included:

Outreach to the Public

  • Lectureship series (similar to the Jefferson Lecture)
  • Travelling exhibit for museums and schools
  • Special programming in high schools
  • Film/video presentations
Outreach to the Sociological Community
  • Lectureship series at regional and state sociological society meetings
  • Special materials (see Publications) on teaching, history of sociology, and major events in the field
  • Attention to the international sociological community
Electronic Outlets
  • Creative use of the internet, including its role as a primary outreach tool
  • Special symposia on key themes or accomplishments
  • Public policy seminars
Annual Meeting
Note: the 2005 President will not be known until spring 2003, so substantive plans for special Centennial events will need to be made prior to that Program Committee’s formation.
  • Substantive work brought to fruition at the Annual Meeting
  • Special sessions and events
  • Commission an updated history of the ASA
  • Commission a history of ASA by historians, historical sociologists, and/or sociologists of science; involve or consult with those with prior experience preparing histories of other learned societies and disciplines
  • Special “century review” type publications
  • A Presidential volume of the addresses of past ASA presidents (there has been some interest in such a product and it has been under consideration)
  • Other social science associations looking at the future of social science
  • International collaborations, real and virtual
  • Outreach to international sociological community to collaborate on Annual Meeting planning and products
The discussion at Council went well beyond this framework without in any sense reaching closure. Council saw the value of thinking of the Centennial as a year-long opportunity for socio-logy, despite what will be important events linked to the 2005 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

President Reskin has appointed two committees of Council to engage in more concrete deliberations and offer some “working” plans. Because of the time urgency of launching any historical project(s), including the possibility of an oral history, one committee, chaired by Craig Calhoun and including Council members Ivan Szelenyi and Paul DiMaggio, is to bring forth plans and options for historical works quite quickly. The mandate of this committee includes consulting with sections and other individuals or groups with relevant expertise. The other committee is charged with thinking broadly and creatively across what might become a nested set of possible projects, activities, and events. That group is being chaired by Pamela Walters and includes Victor Nee, Robert Crutchfield, and Reskin. Meanwhile, I will get more of a perch on what older learned societies have done or are planning (what seems to work and not work).

I wanted to bring this to your attention through the Open Window because possible ideas and ultimate plans are not just within the province of any one group. Please send suggestions via e-mail (, stimulate discussion on section listservs, think about the Centennial in your workplace, and add your thoughts and views. Ultimately ASA will need to craft this initiative in light of sociologists’ interests, engagement, and willingness to commit time to this collective project. While a Centennial Committee will bring this effort to fruition, all of us will need to add and join in.—Felice J. Levine