homeprev issuesexecpublic affairsSTAFFASA home
The Executive Officer’s Column

On Being 100

It is a once-in-a-century privilege to be the ASA Executive in office at an historic moment—the 100th anniversary of this organization. For 100 years, the Association has stood for the scientific study of, and application of knowledge to, social organization and institutions. As a learned society and professional association, the ASA has helped build and support a membership and a discipline that has contributed richly to our society and our world through its scholarship and in intellectual collaboration (and creative tension) with sister disciplines’ studying behavior, culture, and society through the economic, political, psychological, cognitive, and natural sciences. As tempting as it is to offer my own views, as a member of this Association for almost 40 years, of where our discipline is, I will leave it to the many other sociologists and colleagues who will gather in Philadelphia in August at the ASA 100th Annual Meeting to rise vigorously to the challenge of President Troy Duster’s theme—Comparative Perspectives, Competing Explanations: Accounting for the Rising and Declining Significance of Sociology—to explore these issues.

During our centenary, however, the Association itself will contribute to this intellectual dialogue to complement the Annual Meeting. We have supported a major ASA volume on American sociology, edited by Craig Calhoun (to be discussed at the Philadelphia meeting), and we have lent encouragement to a volume on diverse perspectives on American sociology, contributed by the ASA’s History of Sociology Section. We have commissioned a sequel to L.J. Rhoades’ History of the American Sociological Association: 1905-1980, focusing on 1981-2004. And not to be dubbed entirely humorless about ourselves, to commemorate our advanced age we have published The Sociologists’ Book of Cartoons in collaboration with The New Yorker and its 80-year-old collection of socially pointed humor.

While our association’s longevity may be reason enough to celebrate, I can say without risk of contradiction that we sociologists welcome any opportunity to throw a smashing party! In addition to the Annual Meeting, in the fall of 2005 we will also throw an ASA birthday party on Capitol Hill to remind elected and appointed representatives of the people how sociology matters.

Visit ASA’s website to see our initial welcome of the Association’s centennial. Probe further (by clicking on the new centennial logo) to view an ever-developing “ASA Centennial News” webpage at As of this writing, this page provides 22 online resources and identifies another soon-to-be-posted 16. Organized by category, the resources provide descriptions of our upcoming centennial activities, events, products, and news, as well as data or analyses about the past. As information becomes available for the in-development items, it will be posted, as will more material about ASA, the profession, and the discipline than is reflected by the current 38 listed items.

Here is just a sampling: Centennial Events (e.g., fall 2005 Washington, DC, reception); Annual Meeting (e.g., 1999–2004 program archives as well as information prior to 1999); History and Archives (e.g., inventory of historical ASA materials (forthcoming); bibliography of articles about ASA’s founding and history); Publications (e.g., the forthcoming History of American Sociology; Diverse Histories of American Sociology; Teaching Sociology, special issue); ASA Centennial Store; Research & Scholarship (e.g., ASA Data Briefs and Research Briefs on historical trends in the discipline; sociology’s most-cited articles); Education (e.g., The Way We Live video); Leadership and Awards (e.g., information and video on ASA Past Presidents ; Membership (e.g., trends); and Sections & Aligned Associations (e.g., a history of ASA sections and regional/state associations).

Links to additional historical and centennial-themed sources will be added each month. Meanwhile, ASA staff are busy with an extensive overhaul of the website’s overall look as well as its behind-the-scenes structure and functionality to enhance your ability to search, navigate, and use the site’s vast resources. Footnotes also is publishing a series of centennial-related articles, easily identified by the specially designed ASA centennial logo at the left in this Vantage Point column.

A centennial is not about just happening to be at the right place at the right time. It is about longevity and meaningfulness. Popular press attributions of centenarians’ long lives (e.g., the daily shot of whiskey, spartan yogurt and granola diet, weekly treks to the mountaintop) lead us to speculate about the “causal agent” of ASA’s growing strength across two centuries. Sociology has suffered lean fiscal years, times of political hostility, and unfriendly social periods (e.g., the fight for civil rights), but our discipline and profession have not vanished as has sometimes been predicted. Whether it is currently on the rise or decline in significance (intellectual or social), we shall debate with sociologists’ usual vigor in Philadelphia, a vigor reflected in the strength of sociologists’ national association. The ASA has more members now than it has had in over 25 years, as well as more active sections, more journals with rising submissions, and a greater capacity to reach out to the profession and the public than ever before. While we also have new challenges, more than a century of intellectual and social history tells us that sociologists are good at meeting challenges.

Sally T. Hillsman, Executive Officer