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Publishing Innovations for 2002 to Debut Soon

All ASA Members to Get Contexts in February

The American Sociological Association is in the “countdown” phase of producing the first issue of Contexts in its first volume year. In February, the first issue of this new ASA magazine will be sent free of charge to all 2002 members. Members who have already purchased Contexts as part of their membership renewal have already received a discount to adjust for this complimentary issue.

Contexts seeks to be a must read for all sociologists, social scientists, and other relevant audiences interested in being in touch with the latest sociological research. The hallmark of Contexts is that it aims to make accessible sociological work to a broad-based readership and to attract their attention irrespective of specialty interests or expertise in any given area. No subject is off base or too big for Contexts. Contexts publishes sociological work on large issues not just to report on findings but also to stimulate researchers to ask new questions and see new connections in their own work. Contexts also is based on the premise that sociological work should have broad value and appeal. Thus, the target audience includes scholars and researchers in other social science fields, and relevant publics and policy makers whose thinking would be advanced by greater engagement with sociological reasoning, work, and modes of inquiry.

Contexts seeks to widen the profile and impact of sociology—inside and outside the discipline. As inaugural editor Claude Fischer puts it in his first “Letter from the Editor,” Contexts is intended to be “a bridge” that permits crossing the “moat that traditionally surrounds the ivory tower” and that also impedes interaction and cross-fertilization across social science research specialties and fields. As an “out there” publication, Contexts can be found on the ASA homepage and also has its own attractive website at The website includes searchable abstracts, additional resources to expand interest in and use of articles (especially for teaching), and an “In the News Corner” to communicate with the media and to feature the news that Contexts makes.

Contexts is published for the American Sociological Association by the University of California Press. The two organizations have joined forces to design Contexts with the touch and feel of a magazine to be a “take with you product” wherever or whenever one has some extra reading time. With a subtitle—understanding people in their social worlds—to define its breadth, Contexts is ripe for all contexts, whether one wants to be updated on quick discoveries, scan a photo essay that is visual sociology at work, read a personal essay or book review, or delve more deeply into a set of feature articles. Contexts takes as its mission to seek to apply new knowledge, stimulate fresh thinking, and disseminate important information produced by the discipline.Accessibility, broad appeal, and timeliness are among the aspirations that led ASA to establish Contexts. But “ease of reading” is not to be confused with “ease of thinking.” Fischer, his team of consulting editors, and authors in the first issue and in the queue are producing work that should cause conversation, communication, controversy, and connection. Contexts is about engaging this challenge and this opportunity.

ASA members who renew in 2002 will be able to see Contexts for themselves quite soon. ASA Council initially approved the publication of a general perspectives journal in August 1998 and appointed Fischer as inaugural editor in August 1999. In just over two years, the journal was named Contexts, and it moved from a concept in principle to a product in the concrete.

As Executive Officer Felice Levine said in Footnotes last September-October, for sociology and wider audiences, Contexts is “where it’s at.” The Association hopes that come February 2002 ASA members will take a good look, reap the benefit of reading broadly, purchase, and help spread the word to contexts beyond ASA.