American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
November 2016
Volume 
44
Issue 
7

Obituaries

James A. Davis
1929-2016

James A. Davis died on September 29, 2016, in Michigan City, IN, after a brief illnessw. He was the founder of the General Social Survey (GSS) and was a principal investigator from 1971 to 2009. When he won the 1992 American Association for Public Opinion Research Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement, he was cited for “his innovations in teaching, his prodigious scholarship, [and] his creation of the General Social Survey.”

Davis received a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University in 1950. He then obtained his MA from the University of Wisconsin in 1952 and his PhD from Harvard University in 1955. In 1957 Davis came to the University of Chicago as an assistant professor and National Opinion Research Center (NORC) researcher. While he moved back and forth between Chicago, Dartmouth, and Harvard over the next 50+ years, he never left NORC. From 1971 to 1975 he served as NORC’s Director.

Also, in 1971 Davis came up with an idea for a National Data Program for the Social Sciences. Reflecting the social indicators movement of that time, it called for the annual monitoring of social change across a range of important social matters such as inter-group relations, gender roles, and civil liberties and the distribution of that data to all interested researchers without delay. The Russell Sage and National Science Foundations supported the proposal and so the GSS was launched in 1972.

In 1984 the cross-national International Social Survey Program (ISSP) was founded by the GSS and similar programs in Australia, Germany, and Great Britain. The ISSP has conducted a survey annually since 1985, has involved 60 nations, and has done over a million interviews around the world.

As his winning of the ASA Teaching Award, Warren E. Miller Award for Meritorious Service to the Social Sciences from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, and the AAPOR Distinguished Achievement Award attest, Davis’ career has been marked by many well-deserved recognitions. But for the real reward of survey research, Davis can speak for himself. As he noted in Sociologists at Work (1964):

“There is a lot of misery in surveys, most of the time and money going into monotonous clerical and statistical routines, with interruptions only for squabbles with the client, budget crises, petty machinations for a place in the academic sun, and social casework with neurotic graduate students. And nobody ever reads the final report. Those few moments, however, when a new set of tables comes up from the machine room and questions begin to be answered; when relationships actually hold under controls; when the pile of tables on the desk suddenly meshes to yield a coherent chapter; when in a flash you realize you have found out something about something important that nobody ever knew before — these are the moments that justify research.”

Tom W. Smith, NORC at the University of Chicago


Susan Archer Mann
1950-2016

Susan Archer Mann, beloved mentor, dear friend, and Professor of Sociology at University of New Orleans, died on April 8, 2016, after several years’ struggle with breast cancer.

Susan received her BA from the University of Maryland in 1972, her MA in sociology from American University in 1975, and her PhD in sociology from the University of Toronto in 1982. She spent more than three decades actively writing, teaching, and mentoring at the University of New Orleans (UNO), a place she came to love, doing the work that so engaged her passions and intellect even as she suffered from her illness.

In her early work, Susan attempted to explain the uneven conversion of agricultural production to a capitalist wage-labor system. She and James Dickinson laid out the arguments that became known as the Mann-Dickinson Thesis, positing that intrinsic features of agricultural production made it relatively risky and unattractive to capital. Susan later applied this theory to explain U.S. farm labor in her 1990 book Agrarian Capitalism in Theory and Practice (1990). Her final book, Peasant Poverty and Persistence in the 21st Century: Theories, Debates, Realities, and Policies, co-edited with Julio Boltvinik (Zed Books, 2016), offers new theoretical and historical perspectives on the continued existence of peasant agriculture and its links to global poverty.

Susan extended her theoretical insights to domestic labor and its ramifications on family life and the social position of women in a chapter, co-authored with Emily Blumenfeld, in Hidden in the Household: Women’s Domestic Labour under Capitalism (Women’s Education Press, 1980, edited by Bonnie Fox). Her Marxist-based theoretical contributions to our understanding of production (in agriculture) and reproduction (of labor power through the family) complemented one another and laid the foundation for her later feminist theory work.

Susan found her political groundings and activist interests in Marxist feminisms of the 1970s and feminist theories of the so-called second wave, but she never ceased to be fascinated and energized by the schools of thought that emerged subsequent to her own training. She immersed herself in theories of the third wave, intersectionality, queer theory, postmodernist and poststructuralist feminisms, and transnational feminisms, publishing on the connections and innovations in theory across decades in Science and Society, Sociological Inquiry, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, and a co-authored special issue of Race, Gender, and Class. Her 2012 book, Doing Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity (Oxford University Press), constitutes an exhaustive yet digestible compilation of feminist theories, criticisms, and counter-criticisms, innovatively (and helpfully) positioning them within modernist and postmodernist epistemologies. In 2015, Susan published Reading Feminist Theory, a companion reader co-edited with Ashly Suzanne Patterson (Oxford University Press).

Susan mentored several generations of Marxist and feminist students, providing gentle but formidable critiques. She was one of the “founding mothers” of the UNO Women’s Studies Program and the UNO Women’s Center. She also served as Interim Director of the UNO Women’s and Gender Studies Minor; Associate Chair and Chair of the Department of Sociology; and Chair of the ASA Race, Gender, and Class section.

Susan was highly regarded as an excellent teacher and mentor for both students and colleagues at the University of New Orleans. For her colleagues and the department she was a leader who not only brought treats to meetings and offered to help solve the most recent predicament (personal or academic), but also shared her deep analytical thinking and strong theory construction to improve others’ work. Regarding her students, Susan was an agent of social change and innovation. She received the campus-wide Seraphia Leyda teaching award and the teaching award bestowed by the College of Liberal Arts. In fact, she won every teaching award offered at UNO. Since her passing, hundreds of students have given testimonials of how her theory and gender classes were “life-changing”; those who knew Susan best know she would be happiest about this impact.

Susan’s soft-spoken voice and affable personality belied her ability to offer pointed and cogent intellectual critiques but made her a favorite mentor to students for her approachability and warm encouragement. Though she enjoyed sailing, good food, and a strong drink, Susan loved nothing more than sharing an intellectual conversation with colleagues of all ages. She will be remembered for the contributions she made to her family, friends, students, colleagues, and to the larger academy.

Sara Crawley, D‘Lane Compton, Gwen Sharp, Mike Grimes, Rachel Luft, and James Dickinson


Leslie Stanley-Stevens
1961 – 2016

Leslie Stanley-Stevens, Professor of Sociology and Texas A&M University System Regents Professor at Tarleton State University (TSU), Stephenville, TX, died quietly at home on June 22 surrounded by family. She was a beloved and inspiring teacher and colleague, an accomplished researcher, and an internationally recognized scholar.

Faculty, alumni, and students at University of North Texas (UNT-Denton) are celebrating the life of Leslie, whose rise to a star alumnus was predicted when she was admitted unconditionally into the sociology PhD program in 1989. Her intellectual capacity, determination, and positive attitude made her a great student both inside and outside the classroom. The birth of fraternal twin sons, Forrest and Parker, and co-parenting with spouse Christopher, while working towards her PhD, contributed greatly to her interest in parenting, family, and gender. Leslie was one of the few independent teaching fellows who taught upper-level advanced courses plus she swept all appropriate university and department awards by the time she graduated with her doctorate in 1994.

Faculty, alumni, and students at TSU, where she diligently served on the faculty for 20 years, are also celebrating Leslie’s life. Leslie served as principal, co-principal, or consultant on more than 30 grant-funded research projects. She was the first professor at TSU to earn a Research Leave. Recently, for an international project, she interviewed couples in Sweden who equally shared parenting challenges. She authored a book, scholarly journal articles, book chapters, plus magazine and news pieces. She founded the TSU Sociology Club and an Alpha Kappa Delta chapter plus led the effort to establish a pre-ministry program. Leslie’s outstanding performance in all these roles were acknowledged with many awards. Leslie’s great and varied experiences in academia as a student, teacher, researcher, scholar, and author led to her being nominated for, and receiving in 2015, the pinnacle TSU faculty award: Texas A&M University System Regents Professorship.

Leslie’s colleagues in the International Sociological Association (ISA) Committee on Family Research (CFR) attending the ISA’s 3rd Forum in Vienna, Austria in July were shocked and deeply saddened to learn of her untimely death.. Her death stimulated recurring reflections about her bravery, optimism, tenacity, and shared experiences and challenges. Leslie was part of the CFR family, as a great collaborator and enhancer in shared projects building on practices started while a UNT student and continued at TSU.

Leslie’s persistence complementing writing and scholarly skills is illustrated by her efforts to get a book published based on her research on new parent’s expectations: In 1999, she interviewed expectant mothers and fathers about their values, expectations, and practices regarding paid work and family work. Follow-up interviews of the same parents, now with small children, were completed five years later. Informative and insightful findings from these interviews were the basis for several academic papers and journal articles, but Leslie was determined to reach a broader audience outside of sociology. Her background, resources, and research synergized into ideas, practices, and exercises that would help expecting and new parents. The book, What They Didn’t Know When They Were Expecting …and How They Became Better Parents (2012), documented and explained parent behavior plus suggested practical applications to deal with challenges along the way. Leslie accomplished something highly touted but not often achieved by social researchers, that is, applying research results in real-world situations. Her research had an impact outside of sociology. To help new parents further, Leslie started a successful Facebook group, complementing her research and book.

Leslie’s zest for life went beyond academia. She frequently shared high adventures with family and colleagues. Some recent challenges included hiking the Grand Canyon during the winter, mountain biking in New Mexico, and hiking the peaks and valleys of the Swiss Alps.

Anyone interested in acknowledging and extending Leslie’s Legacy is encouraged to make a donation to the Dr. Leslie Stanley-Stevens and Dr. W.H. Stanley, Sr. Scholarship Fund at TSU. Make a check payable to Tarleton State University with reference to Leslie Stanley-Stevens Scholarship in the memo line and send to: TSU, Box T-0260, Stephenville, TX 76402, USA. Donations may also be made by credit card online at www.tarleton.edu/giving/ and following the prompts to Give Now.

Rudy Ray Seward, University of North Texas