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ASA Is 100 Years Old

This is the first of a series of articles commemorating ASA’s centennial year.

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection and brings the promise of renewal. For members of the Association and for sociology in general, however, 2005 has a very special and significant meaning because it marks the 100th anniversary of ASA’s founding. This year will be the occasion for celebrations and other commemorations of this historic milestone.

ASA staff and historically minded members recently ascended to “ASA’s attic,” so to speak, and have rummaged around the archives—locating the “skeletons in the closet” and the historical “ASA baby photos”—from ASA’s past 100 years of history. They plan to share it all with the membership during this year. It’s a lot of material, though admittedly, and thankfully, not everything will be shared. But much of it will find a home eventually on ASA’s homepage focused on the ASA centennial, which will be unveiled in early 2005. “Sociologists, we’ve learned in these last few years, are not an organizationally sentimental lot,” commented ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman as she contemplated the planning efforts for the centennial. Sociologists are too savvy about the importance of the many other variables—besides contrived units of time—that influence society and behavior. “They are not enamored of arbitrary timeframes but rather are focused on empirically significant durations,” she said.

But even temporally sophisticated sociologists will want to adjust their time perspective for this next year, as ASA members enjoy the fruits of months of planning and development. After all, as Hillsman states, “Sociologists do understand the significance of any organization being adaptive enough to survive for 100 years, and the leadership and many members are fully engaged in helping us document and exhibit our historical legacy in 2005.”

Activities & Meeting

The Association plans an exciting year of activities and events in honor of the Association’s centennial. Publications highlighting the Association and sociology’s past, an enhanced ASA website featuring historical records, information on a fall Capitol Hill reception, the ASA Centennial Store on the ASA website at, and a wide variety of products, and instructional and unique research resources all are being prepared or planned in celebration of ASA’s 100th birthday.

ASA’s centennial will be a focus of the 100th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia in August, 13-16, 2005. The 2005 Program Committee’s Centennial Subcommittee, chaired by Caroline Persell, and including Troy Duster, Patricia Hill Collins, Jill Quadagno, and Sally Hillsman, is at work planning the centennial events for the Philadelphia meeting, a historically appropriate location for our 100th meeting. The Annual Meeting Program will focus on the past, present, and future of the discipline of sociology, the ASA, and other aligned organizations within the context of social and historical events of the past century. Watch future Footnotes and the ASA website for news on developments of special centennial-focused or thematic sessions.

ASA President Troy Duster has chosen “Comparative Perspectives, Competing Explanations” as the overarching theme for the 100th Annual Meeting. The theme is conceptualized as being broad enough “to address a wide historical sweep, and yet have sufficient focus to provide a framework in which to address key aspects of the social history of the discipline—its contemporary situation and its potential future development.” A reflection on the “rising and declining significance of sociology” over the past century from a perspective of comparative analysis and with competing explanations promises to generate a program with presentations and events that are lively, interesting, and valuable contributions to the discipline.


The ASA Council has been planning centennial events and publications for several years. In February 2001, Council members discussed at length some ideas to mark its 100th anniversary. As early as December 2000, the Committee on Publications formed a subcommittee to generate ideas about special publications for the centennial, including special issues of journals, and literature reviews. Two centennial subcommittees of Council were appointed in January 2002 to focus on intellectual history and on outreach, publications, and public events.

The Council Subcommittee on Intellectual History, under the direction of Craig Calhoun, is nearing completion of an edited volume to be titled History of American Sociology. An outstanding group of sociologists with diverse backgrounds, from various subdisciplines and intellectual orientations, was invited to contribute articles to this volume. An advisory committee was appointed for the project; the committee included Andrew Abbott (University of Chicago), Troy Duster (New York University and then-President-Elect), Barbara Laslett (University of Minnesota, emerita), Alan Sica (Pennsylvania State University), and Margaret Somers (University of Michigan). The subcommittee plans to release this book during the Association’s centennial celebrations at the 2005 Annual Meeting. Special sessions and events focused on the volume during the meeting in Philadelphia are being planned.

The Council Subcommittee on Public Outreach and Events—consisting of Victor Nee, Roberta Spalter-Roth, Pamela Walters, and Bob Crutchfield—is exploring projects to reach people beyond the society regarding how sociology contributes to society. The Council Subcommittee on International Collaborations is considering ideas on how to link events with an international focus to the centennial celebration. The 2002 International Sociological Association (ISA) meetings in Brisbane, Australia, featured a panel discussion titled “The Internationalization of American Sociology: A Centennial Challenge for the ASA in 2005 and Beyond,” which was designed to generate discussion and ideas for a centennial event featuring an ISA component.

In addition to these Council activities, a range of other centennial projects and activities are in development. The ASA journal Teaching Sociology will publish a special issue to mark this centenary. The Section on History of Sociology is also preparing a book on Diverse Histories of American Sociology, which will be issued as an ASA publication. Many other publications (e.g., Rose Series) and new publications as well as centennial-inspired bibliographies will be posted as well.

In addition, the Executive Office has undertaken a wide variety of initiatives to mark the centennial. For example, it has made a number of ASA history-related informational documents (e.g., about the annual meetings) and photos of past ASA presidents on the ASA website. The 1981 History of the American Sociological Association by Lawrence Rhoades, available on the homepage for more than a year, will be followed on the website by a second volume covering the history of ASA since 1981. This text is being prepared by Katherine J. Rosich and will be published only on the website (in both pdf and html formats), along with appendices containing information and data on the Association. The text of these volumes on the history, as well as selected source documents compiled for the analysis on the history since 1981, will be made available on CD.

Funny Things Happened On the Way to the Centennial

In December 2004, ASA released a published volume (in collaboration with containing nearly 90 cartoons about or of interest to sociologists. The hardcover book, titled The Sociologist’s Book of Cartoons, was compiled from the past 80 years of The New Yorker magazine’s cartoon database and is available for purchase on the ASA website. The hardcover volume is branded with ASA’s new centennial logo and the ASA name, and it includes a special cover cartoon commissioned specifically for this publication. With an introduction by ASA President Troy Duster,, a subsidiary of The New Yorker magazine, produced the book. ASA’s “Centennial Store”at reports a brisk pace of sales of the volume since its release.

Website Refurbishing

The ASA website, which is being redesigned to improve its overall functionality and usability in 2005, will feature content focusing on historical events and documents. In addition to the volumes on the history of the ASA, the site will include a wide array of photos, documents, data, and other information from ASA’s past. Scanned versions of the Association newsletter Footnotes, guides to ASA archival material, bibliographies, and other instructional and informational materials are being prepared for dissemination in various formats. A series of short articles on various topics (e.g., education, ethics, equality) will also be posted. ASA staff have been populating the current website with many centennial items over the past year, but links to them will be consolidated on a single centennial webpage and their centennial significance will be more apparent as the webpage is unveiled early this year.


A timeline of important events in the Association and sociology’s history is being designed and will be featured on large banners to be displayed in a prominent place at the Annual Meeting. This timeline will also be depicted on the website. The content for the banners is currently being researched and finalized. The banners will be created on materials that can be shipped easily so that they can serve as instructional and resource materials on sociology in other venues beyond the Annual Meeting.

Mother of All Birthdays

A reception on Capitol Hill, focusing on sociology’s contribution to society, will also be held in the coming year. This event will include a keynote speaker, and an informational feature (e.g., slide show or posters). Members of Congress, their staffs, representatives from federal agencies, aligned organizations, and the media will be invited to celebrate sociology’s past and its contributions to society and to policymaking.

ASA commissioned a new logo for the Centennial, which is being used extensively in marketing the Centennial. The Centennial logo appears on special commemorative postage stamps, and on a variety of special products and memorabilia (e.g., mugs, totebags, baseball caps, mousepads, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, buttons, and infantwear) available for purchase from the Centennial Store on the website.

A range of other ideas is still percolating as members give consideration to celebrating ASA’s 100th birthday. Some of these ideas include sponsoring special lectures (e.g., see article in February 2005 Footnotes on a new Sorokin lecture series) or programs in high schools, producing film/video presentations and exhibits for museums and schools, and targeting events at regional and specialty sociological associations. In particular, emphasis is being placed on projects and events that increase student participation.

Happy Birthday, ASA !!!