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From the “shooting ourselves in the foot” department

Like most of my colleagues who check their mailboxes regularly, I found in my inbox yesterday the Call for Papers for the 100th annual meeting of the American Sociological Society. Now begins that calm holiday season wherein we scramble like mad to come up with a workable paper (due January 18) from the scraps of thought that have been pooling in our brains but that, due to the fact that we have work to do, haven’t come around to actually thinking about.

This is all fine. I’m used to it. But here’s the subtitle of the meeting this year: “Accounting for the Rising and Declining Significance of Sociology.”

Did they just have to do that? Look, I know I’m not a PhD yet, but I am familiar with the labeling theory. The introduction to the CFP says that this subtitle “is deliberately provocative and could be the source of some scintillating debates and contestation.” This being the one hundredth meeting, they are trying to foster some reflection on the trajectory of sociology across a century. Okay, fine. But couldn’t they come up with a subtitle that doesn’t make us sound like dinosaurs? I just spent a whole semester trying to make my students believe that sociology can say something not only relevant, but important and perhaps, once in a while, profound, about the institutions within which we all live, and this is how the ASA backs me up? This thing gives my brother in law one more reason to think that I’m wasting my time.

Look, do the economists ever make their insecurity a public item? The political scientists? Hell, the anthropologists?