“People, Place, and Power” – the PSA in Long Beach, California, April 1-4, 2015
By President Patricia Gwartney
In deciding to attend a PSA meeting, members juggle three items: The theme, the place, and how to participate (not necessarily in that order). Articles in this issue of The Pacific Sociologist address all three.
In this essay, I briefly outline the meeting theme. Gary Hytrek’s essay explains how the meeting place, Long Beach CA, fits the meeting theme. Marisol Clark-Ibanez will elaborate on Long Beach’s many and unexpected attractions in the fall issue of The Pacific Sociologist. The 2015 Program Director, Wendy Ng, explains how to participate in the “Call for Papers” and I discuss this more below.
The theme “People, Place, and Power” reflects my interests in how broad, macro-level social structural changes in human populations combine with local geographies and institutions, and then manifest as inequalities in micro-level processes within workplaces, communities, families, and politics. The PSA region, and the Long Beach area in particular, provides a fascinating tapestry interwoven with these patterns, ripe for sociological analysis.
Migration streams to the West Coast over the past 250 years, for example, have created unique cultural mixes of race, ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship which differ markedly from most of middle America. The area’s rich and geographically varied natural resources have created a wide variety of economic prospects, which fueled labor force opportunities, tax bases, and educational systems. These on-ramps for social mobility also correlated with vastly lopsided concentrations of wealth, imbalanced systems of health and justice, and unequal abilities to participate in a democratic society. Such legacies of changing population parameters create unique theoretical and empirical opportunities for sociologists, particularly those interested in examining intersectionality in this highly differentiated region.
This social-demographic perspective forms a large canopy under which sociologists with varying interests can participate in the 2015 annual meetings. The nature of PSA’s paper submission system is that we generally build the program from the ground up, i.e., from the research papers that members submit. However, the 2015 meetings will also include invited panels and mini-conferences stemming from this social structural perspective. If you have ideas, please do not hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Program Director Wendy Ng (email@example.com).
The 2015 meetings will look a lot different in other ways as well. In studying the feedback PSA has received from the membership in the last several meeting satisfaction surveys, it is clear that we collectively value a healthy dose of community and good times with our scholarly diet, and the meetings could better achieve those goals with some innovations. For example, about half of the meeting attendees in recent years have been students, many of whom do not know what they should do or how meetings work. We will be sending targeted messages to participants in various categories explaining expectations for their roles on the program. We will also be working hard to solve the scheduling problems several members have noted and to improve the layout of the paper program.
As another part of PSA community building, expect to see more social media at the 2015 meeting. We plan to open PSA’s Twitter account to allow people to share information about papers and sessions in real time and revitalize our Facebook page for people to share pictures and meet-ups with friends. We are also investigating the development of a meeting app that would include the schedule, an integrated Twitter feed, and more.
Various collective activities will be available to strengthen PSA’s community glue, including a sociological film festival, community tours (on foot and by boat), a luncheon, an undergraduate scavenger hunt, and an optional boat trip to Catalina Island on Sunday.
What initially attracted me to Long Beach was the voter-approved living wage law for hotel workers, which took effect in 2013. (This union-backed measure has since been embraced by conservatives and is now spreading throughout California.) As a location, Long Beach is unexpectedly beautiful, convenient, and cost effective. The weather is consistently perfect. The hotel is fresh and airy. The meeting spaces are intimate without being claustrophobic. The food is excellent. Moreover, Long Beach is easily accessible to three airports, enjoys a wealth of arts, culture, and sports, and is located across the bay from the iconic Queen Mary. Most PSA members will not need to rent a car to enjoy all of this because Long Beach enjoys a free shuttle service along the shoreline, as well as extensive bike paths and water taxis.
Put April 1-4, 2015 on your calendar and plan to submit your research papers in October 2014. It will be a terrific meeting.
How Long Beach CA Exemplifies the 2015 PSA Meeting Theme:
People, Place and Power
By Gary Hytrek
The 86th annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association will be held in Long Beach, California, on April 1-4, 2015. This is the first of two essays introducing (or reintroducing) PSA members and colleagues to Long Beach—a perfect location for scholars, students, and sociological practitioners to explore this year’s theme: People, Place and Power. As a resident of Long Beach, I am excited that PSA has chosen Long Beach as its Southern California site.
Long Beach exemplifies recent demographic, spatial, and power challenges confronting many U.S. cities. Once overwhelmingly white and Midwestern, Long Beach was named by USA Today as one of the country’s most ethnically diverse large cities, with sizable Latino, Cambodian, Samoan and Filipino populations. Once slated to be the “Coney Island of the West,” Long Beach has evolved from the sleepy “Little Iowa by the Sea,” to an industrial and maritime powerhouse, to a service-based linchpin of the global economy. Ranked by a Federal Government report in 1978 as among the most socially, economically and financially distressed cities in the country, city investment transformed the downtown and waterfront area into a desirable tourist and convention destination. One constant in the midst of these changes, however, has been the concentration of decision-making power in the hands of a small, wealthy, interconnected group, which repeatedly defeated attempts to create a more inclusive and equitable city.
But, here too, Long Beach is changing as residents discover the power and potential of community-labor movement building. A major force energizing the community has been the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community. Driven by a progressive vision grounded in the legacies of the City’s historic inequities and tempered by the realities of neoliberal globalization, Long Beach residents are transforming their communities by focusing on place-based industries. The Coalition’s vision of building healthy sustainable communities based on responsible development is supported by a practical policy agenda designed to address deep structural inequalities.
Since 2007, this community-labor coalition has enacted two living wage policies in Long Beach; as well as a labor peace agreement and a worker retention measure. These policies directly benefit thousands of employees at the city’s largest hotels, the Long Beach Convention Center, and the Long Beach Airport. The Coalition recently doubled the size of the unionized labor force, having successfully organized The Pike Hyatt and the Hyatt Regency Long Beach Hotel—site of the 2015 PSA meetings. The Hotel Maya and the Queen Mary are the other Long Beach union hotels, each offering unsurpassed service and dramatic views in beautiful surroundings. (Note: The Long Beach Hilton remains under a worker-called boycott.)
As residents grapple with the past to remake its future, the city’s rich and diverse history is reproduced in vibrant and eclectic neighborhoods: From the small town charm of Bixby Knolls; to the working-class community of West Long Beach; to the pet friendly quintessential Southern California beach community of Belmont Shore. In between is Fourth Street (Retro Row), a collection of vintage shops. Downtown Long Beach, the location of the 2015 PSA, is a waterfront urban space with working artist studios and museums; brew pubs, wine bars, and coffee shops; restaurants, stores, and entertainment all connected by a free bus shuttle.
The historical patterns and contemporary challenges of Long Beach provide a powerful backdrop to some of the most enduring sociological questions. As you prepare for PSA 2105, we invite you to examine how the intersection of people, place and power within the context of neoliberal globalization shapes the possibilities for a more just and humane world.