September-October 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 7

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Cynthia F. Barnett passed away on April 7, 2008, at home, surrounded by her loving family, after a long struggle with breast cancer.

Brent K. Marshall, University of Central Florida, passed away on April 27, 2008, due to complications from a motorcycle accident.


Carl W. Backman

Carl W. Backman, a long-time ASA fellow, died at his home in Reno, NV, on February 16, 2008. He was 84. Carl was born 1923 in Canandaigua, NY, on a family fishing trip. His father was a Swedish immigrant; his mother was of German-Irish descent. Raised in Buffalo, NY, he graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. His college career was interrupted by service in the Army during World War II. Because of his high IQ scores, but in spite of his bad eyesight, he was assigned to intelligence. He fought in the Philippines, usually sneaking in ahead of major landings to do pre-invasion reconnaissance. When his unit was once instructed to capture Japanese soldiers, he realized that the enemy were young men just like him. This, and similar experiences, left him a lifelong skeptic of war.

Following college, he earned a PhD in sociology at Indiana University. After four years at the University of Arkansas, he joined the faculty of the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) in 1955, where he remained until the end of his life, only interrupted by a two-year stint as program director for Sociology and Social Psychology at the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. At UNR he was department chair, director of the social psychology, and dean. Outside of UNR, he served as the editor of Sociometry (renamed Social Psychology Quarterly) and was the president of the Pacific Sociological Association, to name only a few honors.

Carl’s scholarly contributions were in social psychology, focusing mainly on interpersonal relations, the self, and group processes. A sociologist by training and employment, he did not see social psychology as being "owned" by any academic discipline. Soon after his arrival at UNR, he teamed up with psychologist Paul Secord with whom he published in the best journals in sociology and psychology. In 1964, Secord and Backman achieved international recognition through their widely used textbook, Social Psychology. Translated into more than 20 languages and once re-edited, the book was perhaps the most complete on the topic, but also the last effort to present social psychology as a coherent discipline equally shared between sociology and psychology. In part as an expression of their unitary vision of social psychology, in 1967 Carl Backman and Paul Secord helped establish the "Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Social Psychology" at the University of Nevada—a program that continues to thrive to this day. Carl was also one of very few individuals who were ever named a fellow by both the American Sociological Association and the American Psychological Association.

Carl knew when it was important for a social scientist to take a stand. During the 60s he was involved in fighting racism in Nevada. He took part in various protests on and off campus and refused to hold conferences in the state until discriminatory practices in housing and segregation in hotels and casinos were banned by law.

Carl had a great influence on his discipline, the university that he served, the department and the PhD program that he helped build, and his many colleagues and students. A loving and loved family man, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, a sister, five children, and nine grandchildren.

Markus Kemmelmeier, University of Nevada-Reno

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Murray S. Davis

Our sociological conversation got a little less interesting last year, when one of its most compelling participants, Murray S. Davis, died on May 17, 2007, in San Francisco.

It is small exaggeration to say that Murray was one of the most interesting scholars our discipline has produced in recent decades. An heir to Simmel, Goffman, and Schutz, Murray had an enviable combination of great analytical mind, profound erudition, observant eye, and writer’s voice. Droll, gentle, slyly irreverent, he deftly, almost impishly, lifted the veils of prudery and self righteous rectitude to reveal the roots of ideology and morality.

From 1973 on, Murray gave us a book each 10 years; the finely crafted prose, diversity of source material, and originality of the ideas making each worth the wait.

In Intimate Relations, Murray drew on intellectual sources, personal observations, media, and literature to execute a phenomenology of the worlds of intimacy. Each chapter analyzes a different stage of intimate connecting by examining first how the links between intimates function and then the ways they can fail.

Murray’s second book, Smut: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology, transformed the way readers think about the erotic domain. It manages to be both funny and learned, attending to the phenomenology of the drift, slide, or skid that Consciousness rides with the Other into erotic reality. Ostensibly about sex, it is an exemplary work of phenomenological sociology. It also makes important contributions to the (macro)sociology of knowledge with its analysis of the "Jehovanist," "Gnostic," and "Naturalist" approaches to sex as multiple, competing worldviews.

In What’s So Funny? The Comic Conception of Culture and Society, Murray produced a theory of humor and the social in which humor functions by violating fundamental social expectations. He showed how the constructed objects of the social world are fragile and vulnerable to attack by the humorist’s juxtaposition of incongruous objects as when popes and hippies are stranded on islands or rabbis and stockbrokers walk into bars.

Murray’s Aphoristics: How Interesting Ideas Turn the World Inside is a carefully organized collection of hundreds of aphorisms—varying from witty to profound, from obscure to cynical—that emerged from the jottings in the small notebooks he always carried. Like Nietzsche, the aphorism was for Murray a form in which social theory could be condensed down to little explosive nuggets.

When he died, Murray was nearly finished with the manuscript for THAT’S NOT FUNNY! The War between the Serious and the Humorous. The sequel to What’s So Funny?, which asked "What must the world be like for humor about it to be possible?", asks the complementary question: "What must the self be like for laughter about the world to be possible?"

Murray was also the author of a sociology cult classic, "That’s Interesting!" This piece starts from the observation that the importance of a theory depends more on whether it is interesting than whether it is right, and then goes on to lay out multiple strategies for how to make ideas interesting.

In Aphoristics Murray wrote, "The most important thing in your life is the most important thing in your life. Less tautologically put: the general form ‘most important’ is more important than any of its particular contents. The most important aspect of your life, then, is not the aspect you believe is most important but the tenacity with which you defend it against criticism from those who believe that some other aspect is more important."

For Murray, ostensibly, the most important things were thinking and writing, but his friends treasure the recollections of his company for he epitomized the idea that the conversation makes the meal. Lunch or dinner with Murray would start out with a warm, if shy, greeting. Then reassurance that the restaurant was OK if you had picked it, or caveats if he had. Then to social theory to politics to recent fiction to Tuesday’s Science Times to updates about the adventures or misadventures of his family and back again. Murray often remarked that he wasn’t gifted socially ("missing the social gene," he said), but, in fact, his presence made any meal a feast of sociality, conviviality, and intellectuality. You always left with an idea for an essay or a turn of phrase to write down or a book to read, but most of all, you came away reassured that a rich, free universe of discourse still existed and that sociality, for its own sake, was a good thing.

The final aphorism in Aphoristics is this: "Those who can identify with their thoughts completely are immortal as long as their thoughts continue to circulate in the minds of others—like this thought in you. Thanks for reviving me, however briefly." You’re welcome, Murray, anytime.

Dan Ryan with contributions from Eviatar Zerubavel, Catherine Schmidt, Murray Davis, Wayne Brekhus, Barrie Thorne, Donna Huse, and Judith Adler

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William P. Kuvlesky

William Peter Kuvlesky, 74, passed away on May 5, 2008.

Bill was born in North Braddock, PA. He grew up on a dairy farm in western Pennsylvania and he served in the Marine Corps. After his service in the military, Bill attended Penn State University where he received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees. He and his family moved to College Station in 1964 where he was a professor in the Texas A&M University Departments of Rural Sociology and Sociology. He retired in 1997 as Professor Emeritus of Sociology.

Bill was especially interested and active in research on rural groups. He was an active member of the Rural Sociological Society throughout his career. He was particularly interested in exploring the factors that lead to systematic disadvantage for low income and minority youth. On this topic he published scores of chapters and research monographs and many articles in such journals as Rural Sociology, Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Humanity and Society and The Rural Sociologist. In particular, his research severely challenged the view that minorities were disadvantaged due to their "pathological subculture." He served several times as the chair of the Rural Sociological Society’s research committee for occupational and educational behavior, and he played a leadership role in several long-term studies of disadvantaged families for the USDA and the Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University.

He was elected to the Texas Academy of Science in 1971 and served in the academy in different positions including as the Vice President of the social science divisions. He also served as the President of the Southwestern Sociological Association in 1974. Bill was inspired by the growing humanist movement in sociology and served as the President of the Association for Humanist Sociology in 1980.

Within Texas A&M, Bill was a champion for democratic leadership and was certainly not shy about telling administrators when he thought they had acted in an autocratic fashion. Dedicated to the goal of a democratic university, Bill served on the ad hoc committee that successfully created the faculty senate at Texas A&M. He occupied several leadership positions in the Department of Sociology, including Graduate Advisor at several different points in time and Associate Head in 1992-93.

Bill was above all, an impassioned teacher. Known as "Kuvy" to his graduate students, he taught many different courses, but his favorite was sociological theory. Bill liked to challenge his students to develop their own logical analyses of theories and be ready to defend them. They had to be ready to defend because he was merciless in his criticism. The first time students faced his critique, they were often reduced to mumbling. The second (third, fourth, and nth) times, they were stronger thinkers and better sociologists because of these critiques. The Rural Sociological Society honored Bill and his teaching by bestowing on him in 1994 their Teaching Excellence Award.

Although Bill was a demanding teacher, he was also welcoming on a personal level. His graduate students often congregated at his and his wife Eileen’s home. Students were cheerfully fed and often participated in whatever the five Kuvlesky children’s activities encompassed at the time. So, graduate students sometimes found themselves, unexpectedly, umpiring softball or baseball games.

Bill was a truly unique person and sociologist. He was not the kind of person to worry about political consequences. This made him an invaluable colleague, mentor, and friend. He always told us exactly what he thought and why. We shall miss his sage advice, his critiques and his laughter.

William W. Falk, University of Maryland; Dudley L. Poston, Texas A&M University; Jane Sell, Texas A&M University

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Nancy E. Waxler Morrison

Nancy E. Waxler Morrison died suddenly in February 2007 while on vacation with her husband in Costa Rica. She grew up in Urbana, IL, where she attended the University of Illinois, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated first in her class. She received her PhD in sociology from the Harvard Department of Social Relations in 1959 and then embarked on a career of research and teaching in the sociology of medicine—a field that was then still in its infancy. Her most important legacy was to demonstrate the many ways that health and health care are shaped by psychological states and different ethnic and cultural expectations as well as the particular disadvantage experienced by those who are poor and powerless.

Nancy’s first major research was done in the 1960s with Elliot Mishler at the Harvard Medical School where she later became an Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Psychiatry. Their studies of interaction patterns in families with a schizophrenic child contributed to the early reframing of psychiatric illness as not only amenable to biomedical solutions but also responsive to social interaction and labeling. With a coveted Research Scientist Award from NIMH (1968-1973), Nancy studied families and schizophrenia from a deviance perspective. With another NIMH award (1973-78), she traveled to Sri Lanka to examine how schizophrenia was treated by traditional means. In a frequently cited article (1979) she suggested that the outcome for schizophrenia was better in preindustrial societies, a radical theme at the time was upheld in later studies by the World Health Organization.

In Sri Lanka, Nancy met her future husband, Barrie Morrison, and her focus shifted to questions of broader access to health care and social justice in the treatment of minorities. Nancy joined Morrison in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1979, and, following an initial appointment in Health Care and Epidemiology, became a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology and the School of Social Work. Building on her extensive collaborative research in Sri Lanka and Kerala, India, she continued her pioneer work on higher infant mortality rates among the minority Tamils and Muslims of Sri Lanka with a prestigious fellowship at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy, in 1988.

At UBC, Nancy Waxler Morrison became one of the university’s leading figures in social science and health care, giving guest lectures and serving on dissertation committees in many departments and faculties and as a consultant in Ottawa. The range of her courses was impressive: sociology of medicine, social research methods, health and illness, the family in cross-cultural perspective, health policy and planning. Her advice and her lectures in psychiatry and nursing, anthropology, history, and Asian studies touched on applications to international and Canadian health services.

Trusted and respected by students and colleagues alike, her teaching career had begun in the Boston area with adjunct appointments at Emmanuel College and Wellesley College. In 1975 and 1980-81 she was affiliated with the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and from 1981 to 1992, with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Washington. She retired from UBC in 1992.

Her wide-ranging research interests extended to leprosy, illness among Canadian minority groups, psychosocial factors in women with breast cancer, Ayurvedic and homeopathic medical systems in Kerala, access to dental care for institutionalized elders, and asthma among lumber workers. In collaboration with graduate students and health professionals, she produced two editions of Cross-Cultural Caring (1992, 2005, co-edited with Joan Anderson). This work has been widely used by nurses, social workers, physicians, and other health care professionals.

Nancy also enjoyed a rich personal life. She found pleasure in all kinds of travel. She had a talent for gardening and good cooking, and an interest and skill in such crafts as weaving and needlework. Though she was always modest and unassuming about her own importance, her work as a sociologist adds up to quite a remarkable record of discovery of the many ways in which health and the treatment of illness are powerfully shaped by social relationships and cultural milieu.

Janet Zollinger Giele, Brandeis University; Elliot G. Mishler, Harvard University; Elvi Whittaker, University of British Columbia

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Charles Moskos

Charles C. Moskos, preeminent sociologist of the military and long-time member of the Northwestern University sociology department, died of cancer on May 31, 2008. A man of humble origins from an immigrant family, Charlie was known for his great personal kindness, congeniality, and lack of pretense even as he mingled with the elite of Washington, DC, and showed up regularly in the New York Times. As a former enlisted man, Charlie never took himself too seriously. Aldon Morris spoke for many when he said: "While I treasure all Charlie’s gifts, it is his friendship and loyalty I will miss most."

Moskos was born in Chicago in 1934 and graduated from high school in Albuquerque, NM. He attended Princeton University, an outsider to its privileged northeastern WASP culture. After graduating cum laude in 1956, Moskos was drafted and served in the army. He then went to graduate school and earned a PhD from UCLA in 1963. He taught at the University of Michigan and joined the Northwestern faculty in 1966. Moskos remained at Northwestern until his retirement in 2003 as the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor. Twice he served as department chair. During his career, he wrote or edited 19 books and monographs and 164 journal articles, review essays, and book chapters. His writings were translated into 21 languages. Charlie received numerous honors including a Guggenheim fellowship, several Wilson Center fellowships, the ASA Award for the Public Understanding of Sociology, two honorary doctorates, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in the Sociological Research Association, chairman of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, various career achievement awards, and the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service from the U.S. Army. His political engagement was reflected in numerous op-ed pieces, frequent testimony before Congress, involvement in the Democratic Leadership Council and the Progressive Policy Institute, and in his phenomenal political networks. He lectured all over the world, in both civilian and military institutions, and accompanied U.S. combat troops in their overseas deployments from Vietnam in 1965 to Iraq in 2003.

In his scholarship, Charlie treated the military like a social institution. Military power is central to the very definition of the modern state, but, as an institution, its authoritarian hierarchies are shot through with social distinctions like class, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Charlie documented how the patterns, tensions, and conflicts wrought by these social differences were internalized, managed, and (sometimes) ignored. Charlie also devoted considerable time to the study of Greek-Americans, a topic dear to his heart.

Moskos was an award-winning teacher. His Introduction to Sociology became a "must-take" class for decades of Northwestern undergraduates, and was always held in the biggest lecture hall on campus. It was such a legend that exams and lecture notes became part of the intellectual inheritance passed down from one undergraduate generation to the next (Charlie once joked that some fraternity crib-sheets were even better than his own lecture notes.) His course often got a mention on the campus tour for prospective students. Grading final exams for his Intro class was equally a collective rite-of-passage for NU graduate students: done by 15-20 people around a table, it combined serious performance evaluation with a party atmosphere, irreverent joking and food. After his retirement, he continued to return to Northwestern to teach, and always to a full house. Despite failing health, he taught for the last time in the fall of 2007, and for undergraduates an era came to a close. A Charles Moskos Visiting Professorship was established in 2006 to recognize his service to Northwestern, funded by donations from numerous university alums and friends. Moskos also mentored many graduate students, who now work throughout the academy, think tanks, policy institutes, and the U.S. military. One of his last PhD students, Liora Sion, paid tribute: "Charlie was my mentor and friend. He always made me feel welcome, always was ready to give good advice even when he was very sick. For me Charlie is generosity, good heart and a lot of delicious Greek food."

A controversial Clinton-administration compromise policy for dealing with gays and lesbians in the military, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," made Charlie famous, but that isn’t what his colleagues will most remember. We will miss his boundless humor and personal warmth, his global perspective, his insider gossip, and his unwavering decency and good citizenship. We have lost a real mensch. As his long-time friend Howie Becker said: "Charlie Moskos was a terrific sociologist, a loyal and wonderful friend, a great colleague."

Charlie leaves behind his wife, Ilca, sons, Peter and Andrew, daughter-in-law Saskia, three grandchildren, and many bereft friends, colleagues, and former students. Proud of his Greek heritage and devoted to his family, he always appreciated a good joke. So it is fitting that he is buried next to his father, but not far from John Belushi.

Bruce G. Carruthers and Wendy Nelson Espeland, Northwestern University

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