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Sociologists Receive Guggenheim Awards

Three sociologists were among the 184 artists, scholars, and scientists awarded this year’s prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships in recognition of their distinguished achievement in the past as well as their exceptional promise for the future. The foundation’s President, Edward Hirsch, announced the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships in April.

Sociologists Diane Vaughan (Boston College), Robert Wuthnow (Princeton University), and Eviatar Zerubavel (Rutgers University) were chosen from among nearly 3,200 applicants from the United States and Canada for awards totaling $6.7 million. The fellowships are for the advancement of professionals in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts so they can undertake important research with as much freedom as possible.

Diane Vaughan, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, has written extensively about the dark side of organizations (e.g., mistakes, misconduct, and disaster). She will use her fellowship to support her current research on air-traffic control in the early 21st century. This research examines the complex, dynamic relationship between institutions, organizations, and individuals that is the essence of the Air Traffic Control System. Specifically, her work concentrates on the interface between the human, intuitive cognitive contributions of air traffic controllers, the technology they use, and the standardization of the system. Also, on the strength of her widely acclaimed book The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA, Vaughan has served recently as an expert witness in the investigation of the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Robert Wuthnow is the Gerhard R. Andlinger ‘52 Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. His current research projects focus on religion and the arts, contemporary spiritual practices, faith-based nonprofit service organizations, social capital, and the public role of American Protestantism. Wuthnow will use his fellowship to support his research on America’s historic self-identity and the challenges of religious and cultural pluralism. His recent publications include Loose Connections: Joining Together in America’s Fragmented Communities and After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s. He is active within the ASA as a Contributing Editor for Contexts magazine and is a former Council Member.

Eviatar Zerubavel, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University in East Brunswick, will use his award to support research on his book The Elephant in the Room. This will continue on his earlier work on the sociology of attention and examines the social foundations of the mental acts of denying and ignoring. His other areas of interest are cognitive sociology, sociology of time, cultural sociology, and history and memory. His recent publications include The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books and Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past. He recently ended a nine-year term as director of the Rutgers sociology graduate program and completed a one-year term as chair of the Culture Section of the ASA.

United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife, as a memorial to their son, established the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1925. The Foundation offers fellowships to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research, and in the last decade, 25 sociologists have been named Guggenheim fellows, including former ASA vice president Richard Alba and former ASA president Jill Quadagno.