The Pacific Sociological Association
84th Annual Meeting
President: Valerie Jenness
Program Chair: Dennis Downey
The Pacific Sociological Association has been hosting annual meetings for over three quarters of a century. These meetings, as well as the publication of Sociological Perspectives, bring a community of scholars, students, and practitioners together for the purpose of disseminating and promoting sociological research. Over the years, the empirical topics of interests have changed with the times, but the importance of developing and disseminating sociological analyses of basic social structures and processes as well as social problems of the day, has remained constant.
With this in mind, the theme of the 84th annual meeting in Reno, Nevada is “Research and Teaching Matters: Creating Knowledge, Policy, and Justice.” I have chosen this theme to direct attention to a series of questions prompted by a slew of books that decry the decline of the public intellectual in modern life, the desire of many colleagues and students who sincerely want to “make a difference” by contributing to the amelioration of social problems, ongoing discussions among scholars about public sociology and engaged sociology, and my own experiences with bringing basic sociological research to bear on pressing social problems related to crime, law, inequality, and marginalization. Does research matter? Under what conditions does the knowledge produced by research get utilized in the development and implementation of public policy and the pursuit of social, economic, and political justice? By whom and for whom is research conducted and deployed? How is sociological research used by those seeking to address social problems? In what ways do researchers play a role in alleviating social problems as well as contributing to the very conditions and constructions upon which social problems emerge, manifest, get institutionalized, and change? How and when is our research expressed in public debate? What is the content and extent of our influence? And finally, considering examples from the past, what does the future hold?
I ask these questions with a commitment to basic research that empirically examines social structures and processes and a recognition that we live in an historical moment in which we are witnessing “hot spots” around the globe break out civil unrest, contentious politics, and war; inequalities between the haves and the have nots continue to grow and threaten to divide us, especially by race, ethnicity, class, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, religion, and political persuasion; contestation over the allocation of civil rights embodied in larger debates about same-sex marriage, immigration reform, and homeland security; the reconfiguration and, in some cases privatization of, public services related to schooling and prisons; continued environmental degradation that threatens to make us extinct as many influential people flatly reject scientific evidence of global warming; and a host of other social problems. As these and other social problems emerge, take shape, and generate consequences for human welfare, justice, and democracy, there is no doubt that research and its corollaries—education and informed policy and practice—can provide important tools to understand our world and alleviate human suffering and promote justice. My heart hopes that happens. My intellect questions whether, when, and how that has happened in the past and can happen in the future. My humanity tells me we have to try. And my instinct tells me that cumulatively we can have some incremental impact.
I invite you to join us in Reno to participate in the 84th annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association. Among other activities, I hope to engage in dialogue about the role of critical, scientific, and humanist research in diagnosing and constructing social problems as well as formulating and implementing policies designed to address them in a way that leaves us a more just community at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Valerie Jenness, PSA President
Dennis J. Downey, 2013 Program Chair
Recommendations on Conference Format from PSA Membership Committee to PSA Council