Archive for the ‘Sociologists’ Category


RIP Harold Garfinkel

May 4, 2011

by Sarah Michele Ford

When you get on an elevator, what do you do? Chances are, you turn around and face the doors. But why? Social order demands that you do.

Harold Garfinkel, an influential American sociologist who died on April 21st, sought to study social order in part through “breaching experiments” in which the researcher deliberately breaks social norms to reveal how they relate to social order.  Garfinkel’s work arose out of the functionalist work of Talcott Parsons, with whom he studied at Harvard, and he developed the subdiscipline of ethnomethodology while teaching at UCLA.

Ethnomethodology, to be frank, is extremely difficult to follow.  It’s often referenced but rarely taught in detail in introductory sociology courses, but his intellectual contributions are important and he will be sorely missed.

New York Times obituary


Retrospective: The 2010 Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association

September 16, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

Last month, downtown Atlanta was taken over by the 105th meeting of the American Sociological Association, the primary professional organization for sociologists.  Imagine two convention hotels, full of more than 4000 sociologists.  I know, for an introductory sociology student, that probably conjures up images of your professor times a thousand or more, which is probably more than you would like to imagine.   The meetings are four days of paper presentations, meetings, receptions, and catching up with friends and colleagues.  The ASAs are also the best place to get an idea of the wide range of work that professional (and not-quite-professional) sociologists are doing.  On the first day of the meetings alone I heard research papers about how blind people assign individuals they meet to sex categories, surveillance, race gaps in access to after school programs and the impacts thereof, and the expectations of young Black men of having professional athletic careers; later during the conference I heard enthusiastic discussions of how to best teach racial and ethnic inequality, papers on the relationship of the individual to society, collectSociologists require coffee!ive memory in a variety of socio-historical contexts, and papers about prisons and prisoners.

All of this sociologizing really does require coffee, as we saw one morning between the 8:30 and 10:30 sessions (I took this shot from the back of the line; it took me close to half an hour to get my drink).

The only other thing that sociologists are willing to line up for in such great numbers is books, as the only other pictures I took during the trip illustrate.  These are all sociology students lined up for the student book giveaway line of people at book giveawayon the last day of the conference; the line later wrapped all the way back around past where I was, roughly the 50th person in line.

I can, of course, only speak for myself, but I always find these professional meetings exciting and exhausting all at the same time.  I come home full of new ideas that I can’t wait to try out in my research and in the classroom.  And I also always ask myself, has any sociologist ever studied this event?