Chair’s Message

Japonica Brown-Saracino
Boston University
Summer 2020, Vol. 33, No. 2

Under ordinary circumstances, many of us would be preparing for travel to San Francisco.  We would be looking forward to gathering together, in person, at our sessions, business meeting, roundtables, and for a reception at the Tenderloin Museum.    I am certain that I am not alone in regretting the missed opportunity to engage with one another at our sessions, as well as to talk more informally in a variety of conference settings – from the book exhibit, to the crowded hallways where we would ordinarily gather between panels.

Yet, we find ourselves in different circumstances; circumstances that section members grapple with in an essay in this issue of our newsletter.  A few months ago, another section member – Benny Witkovsky (PhD student, University of Wisconsin-Madison) – contributed an essay on local politics, civic participation and COVID to ASA’s Footnotes.  I anticipate that, like Benny and the authors of the essay in this issue, many of our members will, in the months and years ahead, shed crucial light on the relationship between the pandemic and various dimensions of place – from racialized spatial inequalities, to municipal responses to COVID, and the impact of the pandemic on cultural frames for urbanism.  At the same time, urban and community scholars will engage the racist police violence, state protest suppression, and resistance movements that are so visible in many of our metropolitan areas today. 

As we begin these crucial conversations, I hope to see many of you (virtually) at sessions, as well as at our annual business meeting, where we will report on section news and celebrate our award winners.   By registering for ASA’s Virtual Engagement Event, you can enjoy section panels on Work, Community, and the City (Sat, August 8, 2:30 to 4:10pm (PDT)); Cities and Big Data (Sun, August 9, 8:30 to 10:10am (PDT)); New Forms of Precarious Urban Labor (Sun, August 9, 10:30am to 12:10pm (PDT)); Theorizing Renters and Rental Housing in the United States (Sun, August 9, 2:30 to 4:10pm (PDT)).  You are also invited to join us for the  Community and Urban Sociology Section Business Meeting (Sun, August 9, 12:30 to 1:10pm (PDT)), immediately followed by the Community and Urban Sociology Section Roundtables (Sun, August 9, 1:10 to 2:10pm (PDT)).

Among the items on our agenda for the business meeting is the celebration of our award winners, including Barrett Lee, Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University, who will receive the Lynd Award for Lifetime Achievement.   For a full list of our terrific award winners, please see: https://comurb.org/2020/06/10/cuss-digest-june-2020/#more-731

Despite disruptions related to the pandemic, this has been a busy and productive year for the section.  To name just a few of our activities, our newly formed CUSS Communications Committee spearheaded the move to a virtual newsletter, and, with Albert Fu (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania) at the helm, maintains a robust website.  In coordination with the Communications Committee, we also instituted a monthly chair’s digest,  which is emailed to members and posted on our website. I encourage everyone to submit content for publication on the website and in the newsletter, as well as to keep the incoming chair, Derek Hyra (American University), apprised of your news for inclusion in the monthly digest.

I am pleased to report that, in May, our section joined many ASA sections in donating the funds we would have devoted to our 2020 annual reception to the ASA Minority Fellowship Program.  The Community and Urban Sociology Section Council voted unanimously to transfer $1800 to support the program, and at our August Council Meeting we will consider ways to maintain support for this and similar initiatives regarding diversity and inclusion in our discipline going forward.

The section owes a great debt to our very active Publications Committee, chaired by Krista Paulsen, which has overseen the search for a new editor of City & Community.  Dr. Deirdre Oakley will soon conclude her very successful editorship of the journal.  During her term, the journal has, among other accomplishments, achieved its highest impact factor to date; published many compelling and timely symposia and special issues; coordinated online-first publication of papers via Early View, ensuring that accepted papers are readily available; and cleared a backlog of accepted manuscripts.  As just one indicator of the journal’s continued import under her stewardship, it is notable that the section’s 2020 Jane Addams’s Award and Best Graduate Student Paper Award both recognize articles published in City & Community.  Dr. Oakley leaves the journal in excellent shape for our next editor – whom ASA will soon appoint. I hope you will join me at our August business meeting – and whenever we next gather together in person –  to thank her for her time, commitment, and vision. 

Of course, there is much work ahead of us as scholars of place and community.  This is a crucial moment for urbanists to be in conversation with one another as our current context brings to light and exacerbates longstanding inequalities and injustice.  Racist state violence, police brutality, and protest suppression are pressing urban concerns that should be central to conversations within our subfield.  Consideration of how we can elevate these concerns and conversations within and beyond our scholarship and meetings will be a key item on the August agenda of the CUSS Council, and I encourage members to reach out with ideas and recommendations. 

In closing, it is with gratitude that I thank several outgoing section office holders, including secretary-treasurer, Mary Fischer, Publications Committee Chair Victoria Reyes, Student Representative Kyle Galindez, and Council Members Ernesto Castañeda and LaShawnDa Pittman. 

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve as chair of the section, and I am very happy to welcome Derek Hyra as our next chair.  Indeed, I have benefited from his collaboration throughout my term, as well as from the insights of past-chairs Rachel Dwyer and Miriam Greenberg.  I have no doubt that Derek, together with our other new terrific office holders, will serve our section well in this unprecedented time.

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