Category Archives: Newsletter

Interview with Harvey Molotch, Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award Winner (2019)

The CUSS newsletter team reached out to the 2019 Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award Winner, Harvey Molotch, to reflect on his career and his trajectory as an urban sociologist. Dr. Molotch is Professor Emeritus at NYU and UC Santa Barbara and is a prominent figure in urban sociology and our section. We’re including his responses below:

What initially brought you to urban sociology? 

I’ve always had a thing for land and buildings. Children play with blocks; I kept at it. When growing up in Baltimore I liked watching things go up, including houses and especially movie theaters. From family scuttlebutt I learned that a part of making things happen was connections – that’s what gets zoning, building permits, and even permission to have a neon sign. Don’t be shocked, dear reader, but there were bribes.

When I got to urban social science, my Baltimore was not in it. Crime was certainly there but largely sequestered as criminology. Urban science was about concentric circles, demography, and exotic street corner life. I yearned for the developers, the fixers, and the crooks – and their linkages with the more ordinary folks trying to make their way through the thicket. A lot of my life has been to follow up on that.

What has been the most exciting moment of your career?

I was giving a paper at the ASA, circa 1970, in a session called “Radical Sociology.” We were plenty hyped up. It was a full-house in the “Imperial Ballroom” of the Hilton. My paper was called “Oil in Santa Barbara and Power in America” and my big line, which the journal was to edit out: “When the oil hit the water, the shit hit the fan.” It went over big, including with the august Talcott Parsons, rollicking in his seat at my insolence. I doubt he could foresee the demise of his structural functionalism and the rise of the intellectual left that was blowing in the (air conditioned) wind. I got it.

I always taught Sociology One, exciting again and again. It was great to teach our greatest hits, which also included, in my version, wonderful stuff from anthropology, history, political science and even economics. I was a heavy user of slides, video, and music; I loved being there as the students saw the light.

What do you think are the most pressing issues for urban scholars to study today?

Changes in land use, whether through growth or contraction, have specific impacts on wealth distribution, social lives, and the natural environment. We need to understand and publicize these effects – this is a special role for urban studies as opposed to sociology more generally.

I don’t think we fully resolved the problem of the “urban object” – what is distinctive to the urban as opposed to the social and economic more generally. Too often, in my view, urban sociology means whatever goes on in cities. But since cities are the commonplace of life, this delimits very little. The urban matters, not by declaration but by clear display of how taking it up clarifies larger realms of thought and politics.

The danger is that without meaningful framing, the urban aspect can be a sloganeering substitute for confronting larger social issues of inequality, health, and  racism. High-rise public housing filled a need for sure, but it was hardly a panacea; the switch to low-rise is equally misguided as general solution. We need intellectual tactics to prevent our beloved “urban” from being misapplied.

For me, a good point of entry is to ask, in effect, “how did that get there and that way or through what process did it cease to be.” The concrete of the city, its shape and form, can be our entry point for the recursive loop between the social, the artifactual, and the natural. In short, the city, in this sense, can be method. It is a way into culture, political economy and comparative analyses.

One critical obsolescence of our prior paradigms is the collective effect of climate change. In grappling with this wicked problem, we need to think about how our urbanism as a way of life is a destroyer. We need to learn the ways particular settlement configuration exacerbate earth impact. We need to figure out how to repudiate the value-free development doctrines, world-wide, that lead to catastrophe. Going green needs some red – with approaches that are positive, practical, and that leverage potential for human solidarity. The downside of recycling is its ineffectiveness; the upside is its display of mass participation for a common cause. How can that “instinct” be bottled but made significant rather than trivial.

What advice would you give to new researchers?

Coming into sociology at a time of plentiful jobs, my own pleasurable enthusiasm was likely historically exceptional. That said, I can declare that I really did follow my fascinations and try to make myself useful. I did see some less fortunate colleagues stuck in the rut of strategizing; it made their work less interesting for themselves and probably didn’t help their careers much either. What to do? Curiosity is really all we have that has at least the potential to pay off both on and off the job. It is a reason to get up in the morning.

Cities face a lot of challenges today. What advice would you give to residents and activists who are concerned about issues in their neighborhoods?

It is discouraging to witness how much urban activism goes not to progressive agendas but to those based in fear of those agendas. Ironically, change is made horrible because there’s such a weak safety net, even for the middle-class. Some of the resulting anxiety clutters public discourse with resentment against newcomers and hostility toward those driven, like the homeless and the ill, to repugnant life strategies. We all know that miseries at the level of appearances — even public elimination at the extreme — come from the deeper realms. Urbanists have a direct line to those appearances as well as means to know their source. We have the job, as a consistent matter, to convincingly explain these extreme local troubles as traceable to policies and politics that do people in.

 

 

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2019 Lynd Award: My Mission as a Social Researcher: How I Remember It

Anne Shlay
Georgia State University
2020 Winter, Vol 33, No 1

At 20, I fell in love with the Russians, namely Russian literature.  The passion of Bolshevik poets whose public readings of their work drew the masses excited me.  I cherished the Russian literary thaw that produced the novels of post Stalinist writers and was heart-broken when they were silenced after the fall of Khrushchev.  I studied the Russian language in the hope that I could read Dr. Zhivago in the original.  Yet the inspiration of what became my life’s work came from Dostoyevsky, a writer from the 19th century.

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Editor’s Note (Summer 2019)

William Holt
Birmingham-Southern College
CUSS Newsletter, Vol 31, No 3

This edition of the CUSS Newsletter marks the end of my almost 20 years of serving as an editor. In 2001 I responded to a call for an editor  from then-Chair Barrett Lee. He contacted me on what seemed to be a typical Tuesday morning that I was to be co-editor with  Jennifer Stoloff at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

      However, that Tuesday was anything but ordinary. On WCBS the announcers were complaining about how poorly the Giants played in the previous evening’s Monday Night Football Game. Then, during the weather report, the announcer mentioned that there appeared to be a small plane near the  World Trade Center. By the time I walked from my research job with the Yale Medical School to Lindsey-Chittenden Hall to teach Sociological Imagination, the introductory course, to a large lecture hall of undergraduates,  things had changed drastically. The  musicology professor who taught before my class always ran late. So, when I walked into the auditorium,  he had on the overhead with live tv coverages showing the maps of Washington, D.C. I had developed for the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) of the Monumental Core area between the White House and U.S. Capitol.  Secret Service agents ran through the building pulling then-undergraduate Barbara Bush out of L-C. Yale officials asked us to send the undergraduates back to their  residential colleges. They asked us to  volunteer to go over to Yale-New Haven Hospital, a designated center in case of a major disaster  in New York, to assist with triage for what they thought would be incoming  victims. Within hours Yale officials sent us  home since no one would be  arriving for treatments.  We had no idea how significant that day would be on so many levels.

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NEW COVER: City & Community

Kyle Galindez
University of California, Santa Cruz

Steven Schmidt
University of California, Irvine

Interview with Deirdre Oakley, Editor-in-Chief, City & Community

CUSS Newsletter, 2019 Spring, Vol. 32, No 2

-City & Community recently debuted a new cover for the March 2019 volume. What motivated the redesign?

When I became editor in 2018, the original cover design was 16 years old and I thought it was time for a new look. I also found out that Wiley, our publisher, would work with me and my on-site editorial staff on a new design free-of-charge. At the time, the Section’s Chair (Miriam Greenberg) and Publication Committee’s co-chairs (Heather MacIndoe and Japonica Brown-Saracino were supportive of the idea), as was ASA.

-Can you tell me about your editorial vision for the new cover?

There is a form of cityscape art called original line/pencil illustration or rendering. I was familiar with British Illustrator Abi Daker’s work (http://www.abigaildaker.com) and found it inspiring. This is because, symbolically, the contributions to City & Community ‘draw’ cities and the communities within them (both past and present) to reveal unique visions of previously uncovered productions.

One of the urban themes I learned when I was pursuing my master’s degree in geography in the early 1990s was that of the city as a palimpsest. This historic word originally referred to the reuse of parchment for the written word during the 1500s. Basically, with parchment, the previous text — while erased – bled through the new text. We could liken this practice today to what happens with graffiti. But back to history, the term palimpsest began to be used more broadly in the realm of urbanism to illustrate the multiple layers of the city, whether it’s about changes over time, the way different groups perceive their city, placemaking and de-placemaking, infrastructure, inequality (ethnic, racial or socioeconomic), as well as how such aspects of the urban environs are imagined. While it’s virtually impossible to convey the city palimpsest surface in a static cover design, that’s the foundational idea behind our new cover: a rendering of some generic city in line/pencil illustration form, which fades into the distance representing the present, past and future. Fortunately, we had the option for two colors to distinguish the journal title from the artwork.

The Wiley design team is confined to working with stock art (no this is not Daker’s work!), so it took some back and forth to get the image in line with what I wanted it to convey. They did a great job, for which we are all very appreciative. I am also grateful for the quick turn-around time for cover redesign approval by our Section leadership as well as the ASA.

On behalf of the entire on-site GSU Editorial Team, I’ll just say we hope you all like our new cover!

Chair’s Message (Spring 2019)

Rachel Dwyer
Ohio State State University
2019 Spring, Vol. 32, No 2

This spring has brought me occasions to reflect on mentoring and public engagement as a bedrock of our activities as scholars and, when done well, a source of great meaning, connection, and fulfillment. One of those occasions has been the energy around mentoring in the Section. I’m proud to be part of the Community and Urban Sociology tradition of strong mentoring. We have several initiatives this spring that reflect and build on this tradition. Recently, a call went out to continue our highly successful mentoring meetings, initiated two years ago. We encourage senior volunteers to mentor junior scholars at the upcoming ASA meeting in New York, and we encourage all junior scholars interested in making mentoring connections to sign up to be matched with a more senior scholar. We are planning mentoring activities at the preconference, with more information to come this summer.

We are also proposing an amendment to our bylaws to create a formal “Mentoring Committee,” in order to further support and develop the work of the section. This proposal was developed under Chair Miriam Greenberg’s term, and as a result of research done by the Membership committee and an ad hoc Mentorship committee. The proposal to put the bylaws on the ballot was approved by the 2017-2018 Section Council and at the 2018 section business meeting at the ASA. I encourage all members to vote yes to the bylaw amendment to create a Mentoring Committee to continue to build on the energy and commitment to mentoring in our section. This initiative supports our current members, draws in new members as a major recognized benefit of this section, and builds community by connecting members to each other.

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News & Notes

CUSS Newsletter, 2019 Winter, Vol 32, No 1


Several CUSS members received the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) 40 for 40 Fellowship. CUSS members receiving fellowships include: Prentiss A. Dantzler, Colorado College; Jacob Faber, New York University; Michael Gaddis, UCLA; Philip Garboden, University of Hawaii at Manoa; and Eva Rosen, Georgetown University. A full list of fellows is available at the website: http://www.appam.org/meet-the-recipients-of-the-40-for-40-fellowship/

●Jeni Cross, Sociology, and Deana Davalos, Psychology, Colorado State University, and their research team received the inaugural Emerging Community Engagement Scholarship Award from the Office of Engagement and the Office of the Provost. The Emerging award celebrates a new initiative that has shown potential for long-term impact, achievement and scholarship. The BSHARP program is a community engagement effort launched in 2015 that provides dyads (persons with dementia {PWD} and their caregivers), tickets to attend five Fort Collins Symphony Masterworks concerts and social hours. The study explores factors such as the impact of the program on cognition in PWD, relationships with caregivers, and the degree to which participants feel supported by the community. Our collaboration has led to emphasizing facets of the concerts that participants endorse having the greatest impact (the appreciation of the Maestro’s recognition at the concerts) and understanding the course of change in the participants.

●Jerome Krase, Brooklyn College CUNY co-led with Małgorzata Bogunia-Borowska and Anna Sarzyńska a Graduate Visual Sociology Workshop, “Seeing Krakow Change: 1997-2018,” at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland (May 7-10). Subsequently, during his Fulbright Specialist Scholarship Assignment in Prague, at the Charles University (May 11-25) he was honored to give the Ernest Gellner Nationalism Seminar, Sponsored by the Czech Association for Social Anthropology and the Czech Sociological Society, in Cooperation with the Institute of Sociological Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University. With his daughter Kathryn Krase he published “Undermining Governmental Legitimacy at the Grass Roots: The Role of Failed Promises and Inflated Expectations of Community Accountability,” In Legitimacy: Ethnographic and Theoretical Insights, edited by Italo Pardo and Giuliana B. Prato, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2019: 169-92. When he returned in the Fall, he was elected Vice-President, City University of New York’s Academy of Humanities and Sciences.

●Meghan M. O’Neil is Social Science Research Fellow with University of Michigan Law School, Postdoctoral Fellow Affiliate with Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research, and Faculty Expert at Poverty Solutions. O’Neil is co-investigator on over $2.7 million in grants to conduct empirical legal research to increase access to justice for vulnerable Americans and better understand the economic barriers facing people who interact with the criminal justice system. She is the lead investigator for the State of Michigan on a mixed methods multi-state study of fines and fees assessed for parolees on Community Corrections Fines and Fees sponsored by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. O’Neil led a team of students and won two INNOVATE awards in a public service pitch campaign for her study, Removing Barriers to Recovery: Community Partnering for Innovative Solutions to the Opioid Crisis while completing her dissertation earlier this year. O’Neil has obtained support from seven courts, two treatment centers, and a tech-startup to provide no cost legal tools to 10,000 community members seeking recovery from addiction services over the next year. Echoing Desmond and Western (2018), she acknowledges that poverty is multidimensional and is a matter of “justice,” not merely economics. Her scholarship relies upon empirical evidence to improve our understanding of American poverty and help identify paths to overcome the challenges of achieving intergenerational mobility, especially for minority families. Her recent work is forthcoming in Law and Contemporary Problems and a special issue of Phylon sponsored by the Russell Sage Foundation in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and WEB Du Bois.

●Diane M. Sicotte (P.I.), Associate Professor of Sociology, Drexel University, and Kelly A. Joyce (co-P.I.), Professor of Sociology and the Center for Science, Technology and Society, Drexel University, were awarded $345,270 from NSF through the Science, Technology, and Society program for a three-year project, titled “Societal Aspects of Energy Infrastructure Expansion.”Through interviews, fieldwork and content analysis, the research team will examine the opinions of labor union leaders and members on efforts to develop and expand gas infrastructure versus renewable energy sources. The technical and scientific expertise of unionized workers will be studied in order to understand how, and if, such expertise impacts technology design and use, or is used in political claims-making and policy formation.

●Michael Timberlake, former CUSS secretary/treasurer and past North American editor of Urban Studies, retired at the end of June from the University of Utah.  Though retired, he is still working on three projects: Chinese cities in the world system of cities (collaborative with John Stevens and Xiulian Ma); urban transformation in Seoul in global perspective (with K. Shin), and race and the persistent under-development of the lower Mississippi Delta.  Now living in Seattle, he would enjoy meeting other social scientists doing related work living in the area and hearing about their research.  Mike can still be reached at timber@soc.utah.edu

Editor’s Note (Winter 2019)


William Holt
Birmingham-Southern College
CUSS Newsletter, 2019 Winter, Vol 32, No 1

The CUSS Newsletter starts its 32nd year, with

Three new assistant editors: Elizabeth Korver-Glenn, assistant professor at the University of New Mexico; Kyle Galindez, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz; and Steven Schmidt, a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine. They will be developing new features and articles for the CUSS Newsletter for the 2018-19 editions. 

Check out Kyle and Steven’s interviews with the 2018 ASA CUSS Award recipients on pages 12-17 as well as a Q & A session with Deidre Oakley, the new editor of City & Community, on page 4.

Following a suggestion by Lily Hoffman when she served as chair, the CUSS Newsletter’s first edition each year always includes a feature on the Lynd Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Please look at page 1 to read Nancy Denton’s reflection as the 2018 recipient.

Please see the 2019 CUSS Awards Call for Nominations. Contact information is on page 7 for each award which all have a common April 2, 2019 deadline.

On page 10 you will find Jerry Krase’s scenes from his team taught Graduate Visual Sociology Workshop with his visual studies students at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.

This edition includes regular sections such as   New Books, New Publications, and New Dissertations. Look in the News & Notes section for news from other CUSS Members. The Announcements include calls for two conferences as well as the 2019 CUSS ASA Pre-conference on page 22.

As always, please contact me at wholt@bsc.edu with ideas for editions.

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