I’m at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in Denver through Monday and I’ll be writing up short dispatches and posting them here at UVenus.
Liminality -I am in a funky space located somewhere between a sociologist and a member of the press. I’ve been attending/presenting at ASA since the late 90’s and this time, I am representing UVenus and Inside Higher Ed. It’s a strange feeling, a space of watching and observing rather than participating. I’ll write more on this as the weekend progresses.
I received my Ph.D. in 2004 and, after a short stint as a faculty member, took a dean position and dove into administration. At ASA2010 in Atlanta, I presented two papers – one in Sociology of Culture (based on my dissertation research) and one in Sociology of Education (based on my administrative work). That was also a time of straddling two worlds: academic and administrator. I was very much aware of watching faculty members at work, watching the boundaries of a discipline being actively maintained, watching graduate students being indoctrinated into the discipline through the mechanizations of a professional society. As an administrator, I was aware of how this helps faculty become known entities in their worlds and increases their status. I was also aware of how this takes them away from their institutions, departments, students. It is not a bad tension but it is a place of push and pull.
Writing for UVenus, I can’t help but think of our writers and readers as I attend sessions, read the Twitter feeds, and watch the interactions. The Twitter feed is dominated by the voices of PhD students and early-career faculty – resisting the indoctrination and professionalization while realizing that “success” requires some sort of acquiescence. I’d like to hear more from you in the comments on the good and bad of attending conferences.
I attended a fantastic panel on Inequalities in College Access and Completion yesterday afternoon and I’ve asked a couple of the presenters for their papers. I’m hoping to write a more substantive post on this topic later this weekend. One important issue that came up at the end of the series of presentations was around the obligation of an academic to the people she studies. Do we prioritize the “purity” of our research over the lives of those we study or vice versa? For me, this comes back to one of my favorite topics – the role of academics with regards to public engagement.
Stay tuned for more and follow the Twitter chat at #ASA2012.