Well, I'm proud to report that I have officially survived my induction into yet another of those humongous American-style disciplinary conferences. This time it was the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. The similarities to my November 2009 experience at NCA (i.e. National Communication Association) are remarkable, and lead me to the rather surprising conclusion that American academics, at least in the social sciences, have as much in common across disciplines as they do within them.
I was, all in all, quite pleased with the level of the programming. Given my own research interests, I made a point of attending sessions related to popular culture, the cultural industries, media sociology, and communication and information technologies--and found myself impressed, energized, and inspired. For the first time in my life, for example, I could envision a way in which novel quantitative methods could be applicable to my own research (thank you, Gabriel Rossman). Likewise, digital media researchers Dhiraj Murthy and Cabell Gathman got me thinking critically about the social media tools Twitter and Facebook that I use every day. (Cabell mistook me for faculty; I'd like to believe that was due to my thoughtful, mature poise, but I suspect it was actually because my ignorance of the latest Facebook trends was showing and I was thus giving off stereotyped Fossilized Faculty vibes.)
To my surprise and delight, I even ran into sociologists who study print media--shout-outs to Andrea Barra, who is updating Jan Radway's classic research on the romance novel, and Mary Churchill, who has researched comic book reading practices. You're both awesome! I even got to speak briefly with Elizabeth Long, one of only a half-dozen sociologists or so who know anything about the book publishing industry...not to mention one of my heroes. She was the discussant for the session I presented on, too.
Speaking of my contributions to the conference, they went well, I think. The "Media and Collective Civic Engagement" professional workshop organized by Bill Gamson and Greg Maney was a fascinating if thorny discussion about the relationships between journalists and activists, and the role of the media in enacting progressive social change. I look forward to seeing the conversation evolve further. My paper, titled "Ideological Struggle in the Cultural Field: Shoujo and U.S. Manga Publishing," was well-attended for an 8:30 am session with about fifteen people in the audience.
Even the events that I attended which were not closely related to my fields of expertise were excellent. From the role of "public" in the public university to a call for the expansion of the definition of reproductive rights--American sociologists ought to be proud of the good work that they do. Unfortunately, I did not get to see my roommate for the conference present her work (she threatened to wreak Death and Destruction on my world if I dared show my face at her session), so I hit the book giveaway instead and trucked away a pile of free printed matter. (Pleased to report I got the revised versions of vols. 2 and 3 of the Castells trilogy and several copies of the issue of Contexts that had my review essay in it.)
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to report the debt of gratitude I owe (in no particular order) to Dr. Jeanne Flavin, Rosamund Healey, Stacy Torres, the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, and Marianne and Jonathan of Polity Press. You guys became my home away from home. Thank you.
In sum, then, a good but exhausting week in Atlanta...and I'm looking forward to Chicago next year!