2021 Program Theme Statement
The Society for the
Revolutionary Sociology: Truth, Healing, Reparations and Restructuring
The way to right wrongs is to shine the light of truth on them.
--Ida B. Wells, A Red Record (1895)
Wouldn’t a better use of our labor be to create a system of justice based on healing, redemption and real accountability, a system that empowers us to stand up and put things right?
--Rosado, et. al., Larger Than Life (2018)
IF WE THINK of reparations as part of a broad strategy to radically transform society — redistributing wealth, creating a democratic and caring public culture, exposing the ways capitalism and slavery produced massive inequality — then the ongoing struggle for reparations holds enormous promise for revitalizing movements for social justice.
--Robin D.G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams (2002)
Can social science still be the brash, young, vital, productive, unsettling, even revolutionary pursuit it has been in its most valuable periods?
--Al McClung Lee, Social Problems (1954)
We build on the past--stand on the broad shoulders of giants--but our vision and our actions are shaped by the ideological frameworks and institutional structures that constitute what Cooley called the “social mind.” Of course, sociologists such as W.E.B. Dubois and Jane Addams had already developed a much more sophisticated and dialectical theory of identity, social consciousness and social forces well before Cooley’s published work. The tragedies of Dubois, Addams, and others’ exclusion from the field was not just the overt racism and patriarchy that lay behind it--although such acts were purposeful and reprehensible. A similarly troubling result from the triumph of white male professionalized (or corporate) sociology was its repression of the discipline’s most radical and engaged efforts at being a revolutionary force for global justice.
As our most recent presidents have stated, the Society for the Study of Social Problems [SSSP] was born out of the struggle to rescue and revitalize a relevant sociology for “the people” and use social science as a weapon for a just world. In 2015, Marlese Durr argued that our work must actively “pursue a just society [if we] may alter the most pressing problems carried across centuries.” In 2018, Luis Fernandez encouraged us to be bold in not only studying social problems, but in developing ways to abolish them, “eliminate [ing] systems of subjugation” and “reimagining social justice.” When Heather Dalmage claimed last year that “resistance alone [would] not create a new world with new possibilities,” she called on us to build pathways, solidarity, political engagement and pedagogies of liberation to “create the structural changes that bend toward justice.” She asked, “Where does our scholar activism, as we live it through SSSP, fit into our dreams of transformation, toward building new worlds?”
Unfortunately, SSSP itself has too often fallen short in meeting the radical aspirations of its members and leaders. From the late 1960s onward, presidents complained about the organization’s conservative tendencies and the ways in which fighting for professional status and scientific legitimacy too often limited the revolutionary imagination and political interventions of the organization. By its 25th Anniversary, founders suggested that SSSP had become a “mini ASA” losing both its analytical focus on power and structure and its political focus on policy applications and movement activism. By its 50th Anniversary in 2001, many wondered whether the organization then suffered from its own institutionalized and rigid orthodoxies. That year, Ellen Reese (2001) issued SSSP a Call to Action for a more politically engaged professional organization. Twenty years later we echo that call with even greater immediacy and purpose. SSSP can be a stronger, more active and transformative body that supports social movement work in our communities, in our nations, and around the world. But we must make it so.
The 2021 Program Committee invites you to join us in Chicago to envision a more effective future for the forces of radical and revolutionary sociology. We must be bold and persistent, not in dogma, but in passion, commitment and action towards global justice. We call for papers that ask--and try to answer--the questions posed so many years ago: “sociology for what?” (Lynd, 1936) and the “sociology for whom?” (Lee, 1951). We invite scholars looking to reach out to, and work with, community groups and social movement organizations—whom we hope will have a strong presence at meeting sessions and at conference events throughout the city. We hope to inspire innovative, interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts at what Nancy Naples (2007) called “research that matters.” While we cannot predict now what next summer’s social and political context will be, we know that pandemics and racist police murders are symptoms of the already existing structures of oppression and violence that SSSP members (and the organization itself) must work to end.
Finally, in part as a response to possible pandemics but also as a strategy to increase our global vision and inclusivity, we will have a virtual component to this year’s conference. While attendance will be open to all members, virtual sessions are specifically targeted to those who could not otherwise attend in person. We believe this mechanism and strategy will help us increase the participation of international and low-income professionals, graduate students, and young scholars who might otherwise not be able to participate in person. As we answer former President David Smith’s (2016) call to increase our global presence and analysis, we also understand that the forces of inequality and patriarchy, white supremacy and violence, have always been global in nature. The formation of a revolutionary sociology focused on both a new abolitionism and a new vision of radical democracy and redistribution must also be international. We look forward to having these conversations, dialogues, debates, and celebrations next year in Chicago. Please join us.
Corey Dolgon, SSSP President
2021 Program Committee
Woody Doane, Co-Chair, University of Hartford
Michelle Christian, University of Tennessee, Knoxville