Each year, ASA’s president chooses a theme on which to focus some of the programming for the ASA Annual Meeting—a tradition that ensures our meetings reflect the rich diversity of perspectives and subject matter in our discipline. 2021 ASA President Aldon Morris has chosen the theme “Emancipatory Sociology: Rising to the Du Boisian Challenge.” His conception of the theme is below.
EMANCIPATORY SOCIOLOGY: RISING TO THE DU BOISIAN CHALLENGE
For decades, intense debates have stirred about the purpose of sociology. On one side, purists view sociology as an objective science whose practitioners are dispassionate scientists interested only in pursuing sociological truths. On the other, emancipationists believe sociology to be a rigorous science whose ultimate goal is uncovering sociological truths crucial to achieving liberation. The debaters proceed as never the twain shall meet.
The 116th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association rejects the premises animating this debate because they rest on a false dichotomy. The history of sociology demonstrates that the discipline can be a rigorous science while simultaneously acting as a catalyst for social change. Indeed, from the beginning, sociology explored class, bureaucratic, racial, and epistemological domination to reveal their ominous threats to humanity. The goal, whether explicit or implicit, centered on providing solutions to these pernicious problems. The 2021 meeting seeks to make sociology relevant to positive social transformation thus reclaiming its radical roots anchored in research.
Sociological scholarship has repeatedly shown that systems of domination-patriarchy, race, class, and sexual orientation- have been endemic features of societies, especially given their propensities to intersect and mutually reinforce each other. The 2021 program committee is committed to organizing the conference to push the limits of knowledge to point us toward relief from gender discrimination and sexual harassment, racism, ableism, heteronormativity, devastating class inequalities and epistemological and methodological blindness. In these troubling times, a sociology of liberation rooted in empirical observation and theorizing from data rather than ideology is overdue. This sociology is realizable through systematic study and rigorous reasoning in the scholarly tradition pioneered by W. E. B. Du Bois. This Du Boisian tradition challenges us to produce new theoretical perspectives and empirical knowledge on the social conditions faced by oppressed groups. This intervention requires using existing methodologies and formulating new ones to facilitate the collection and analysis of relevant and critical evidence.
To achieve these goals, the program committee invites sociologists to contribute numerous ideas and fora relevant to the theme of the 2021 meeting. Papers and discussions are sought that address all forms and dynamics of domination and protests. Other major foci include white supremacy, racism, terrorism, slavery, colonialism, capitalism, the state, income and wealth inequalities, welfare state, culture, violence, sexual assaults and harassment, LGBTQ discrimination, feminist thought, critical race theory, intersectionality, sociology in global south, education, sociological schools of thought, and epistemological marginalization. The conference welcomes multiple discussions and analyses of methodological issues including all varieties and combinations of quantitative and qualitative methods.
While the 2021 meeting realizes that sociology’s strength derives from heterogeneous theories and methodologies, it also embraces the idea that our intellectual habitus needs interrogation and constant rethinking to generate new insights into an increasingly complex world. Because diversity is critical to meet our expectations, the intent of the 2021 meeting is to be inclusive from all demographic and scholarly standpoints.
Aldon D. Morris