Chair’s Message (Winter 2019)

Rachel Dwyer
Ohio State State University
CUSS Newsletter, 2019 Winter, Vol 32, No 1

Autumn 2018 has brought sobering reminders of the power of community, for good, but also for terror, for bringing people together, but also for erecting walls. In the worst cases, communities of hate encourage the vile impulses of oppressing and excluding any defined as “other”, even to the point of mass violence. Communities of hate all too often get goaded on and strengthened by powerful and cynical interests in the service of their own pedestrian wills toward greed and power. At the same time, our highest hopes of social inclusion and human flourishing arise out of strong and diverse communities that foster openness, connection, learning, and tolerance.

I thus take enormous solace in the community of scholars within our section and to the global community of scholars with which we are connected, all working to understand social life in all its richness and complexity. In our research, teaching, and service we each give a large portion of our time and talents to the great human project of finding things out about our world and attempting to the best of our ability to take actions on the basis of data and empirically tested theory rather than being driven by ideology and prejudice.

Indeed, this is a time when the value of the work of our Section is and should be perhaps as publically visible as it has been at any time over the past several decades. The largest political and economic debates in US society and beyond seem to have rediscovered the significance of spatial inequality in social life. Political realignments in the US and Europe have prompted detailed analyses of the diverging fortunes of different places through long-running, but ever challenging processes of uneven development. Growing nationalism and the continuing scourge of racism result in reflections on on-going racial segregation, oppression, and the varying trajectories of diversity across the United States and other places. Inequalities between nations continue to prompt mass migrations, social conflict, and exchanges of ideas, cultures, and relationships. The evidence of the uneven impacts of climate change are ever on the front page as we mourn the victims and worry over the survivors of the California fires, intensifying hurricanes including Florence, and many other disasters worldwide, each devastating to those closest to the center of the effects, but also a warning and worry even to those far away.

Our section members are among the victims and impacted and we are connected to so many worldwide affected and thus these events are deeply personal as well as challenging to our understanding of the social world. Many of the solutions to the social problems associated with spatial disparities require understanding communities, including what divides us and what unites.

Section activities focus on supporting the work of our members. We are also excited to advance a number of initiatives to better disseminate our scholarship so that it may achieve broader impacts. It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to describe the on-going work to strengthen our Section Community, including through our planning for our time to come together at the 2019 ASA conference in New York City.

Renew your membership, gift student memberships, and encourage colleagues to join for 2019. Our membership committee has been highly successful in keeping us over 600 members in 2018 and we have set a goal of reaching 619 in 2019 before the annual meeting. We thank section members who have sponsored student memberships in the past. We would like to encourage any members interested in sponsoring students to do so at the same time they renew their own membership so that students will enjoy the full year of Section benefits in 2019. Please see page three of the newsletter and here on our website for more information on joining, renewing, and gifting memberships.

We’re excited to have a new website and twitter feed, as well as to partner with City & Community in efforts to make the journal more visible and impactful. Look for announcements in the coming months for enhancing our website and section connections. Albert Fu is our website editor for both the site and for the ASA website, and Rahim Kurwa is contributing to design and content. We are working on compiling our section archives as well as developing new content. We welcome additions.

We’re delighted that our section will host a preconference in 2019. A team of urban and community scholars at NYU, including especially Jacob Faber, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Kiara Douds, and Gerard Torrats-Espinoza, have been working on preparing for our section preconference in 2019. See page 22 for the call for papers. The conference will be hosted at the New York University Wagner Graduate School for Public Service.

I look forward to continuing to work with all of you this year and into the future.

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