Junior Theorist Symposium August 2015, Chicago, IL CFP

Is American sociology much more openly hierarchical than UK sociology? Or am I just reading too much into the name? Either way, it looks good, even if I dislike the title and concept slightly:


We invite submissions for extended abstracts for the 9th Junior Theorists Symposium (JTS), to be held in Chicago, IL on August 21st, 2015, the day before the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA). The JTS is a one-day conference featuring the work of up-and-coming theorists, sponsored in part by the Theory Section of the ASA. Since 2005, the conference has brought together early career-stage sociologists who engage in theoretical work.

We are pleased to announce that Patricia Hill Collins (University of Maryland), Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University), and George Steinmetz (University of Michigan) will serve as discussants for this year’s symposium.

In addition, we are pleased to announce an after-panel on “abstraction” featuring Kieran Healy (Duke), Virag Molnar (The New School), Andrew Perrin (UNC-Chapel Hill), and Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago). The panel will examine theory-making as a process of abstraction, focusing on the particular challenge of reconciling abstract “theory” with the concrete complexities of human embodiment and the specificity of historical events.

We invite all ABD graduate students, postdocs, and assistant professors who received their PhDs from 2011 onwards to submit a three-page précis (800-1000 words). The précis should include the key theoretical contribution of the paper and a general outline of the argument. Be sure also to include (i) a paper title, (ii) author’s name, title and contact information, and (iii) three or more descriptive keywords. As in previous years, in order to encourage a wide range of submissions we do not have a pre-specified theme for the conference. Instead, papers will be grouped into sessions based on emergent themes and discussants’ areas of interest and expertise.

Please send submissions to the organizers, Hillary Angelo (New York University) and Ellis Monk (University of Chicago), atjuniortheorists@gmail.com with the phrase “JTS submission” in the subject line. The deadline is February 13, 2014. We will extend up to 12 invitations to present by March 13. Please plan to share a full paper by July 27, 2015.



  1. I’m not sure that it represents a hierarchy in the sense that the title suggests. I think the problem with American sociology is that there are few arenas for theoretical work to be shared publicly by early-career American sociologists. In the first place, graduate programs are increasingly moving toward shorter times to completion of the Ph.D. and a greater emphasis on publishing peer-reviewed journal articles during graduate school. This, in any case, is the general movement at my university, which recently went through a review of the graduate program and is revising the Ph.D. program to be more like higher ranked departments. The publishing imperative points to the second problem, which is that it takes absolutely forever to get theoretical work published. Manuscripts can disappear for many months before coming back rejected. If students feel greater pressure to produce articles in their shortened time as a graduate student they may be discouraged from pursuing more theoretical work. Finally, the ASA conference is a tough place for young scholars to get attention and feedback on their work. I imagine this is doubly so if you are submitting and presenting work in the small sphere of social theory. I think this symposium is a recognition of these problems rather than an attempt to impose hierarchical inclinations.

    1. Hi kelly, I didn’t mean that to sound as critical as it might have. It was as much a reflection on how and why the title made me uneasy as much as anything else. I think British Sociology is only marginally less hierarchical but it’s certainly much less OPEN about its hierarchies and this says something interesting I think about the discipline’s direction in both countries. Your account reinforces my understanding of the state of theory in the US and for these reasons I think the session is great initiative, I just find the title a bit jarring.

    1. I’m now thinking about the PhD / early career research terminology in the UK and whether it’s fundamentally any different.

    1. I’d love to but my first academic trip to the US (for the digital sociology conference in February) will exhaust my meagre travel fund for next year!

      1. That’s really too bad. Your theoretical writing on your blog is some of the most interesting work I see regularly. I’d also love to see how American sociologists respond to your approach to critical realism and morphogenesis. I followed one somewhat not-so-receptive thread on Org Theory (I think it was OT), but that’s about it. I also really enjoy reading your thoughts on temporality. I even wrote a bit about Hartmut Rosa and ethnography after you posted some thoughts on Rosa http://bycowardiceorcourage.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/social-acceleration-and-plodding-ethnography/

        In fact, your blog and writing on blogging helped push me to start blogging at http://bycowardiceorcourage.wordpress.com

        I hope I have a chance to see you present some of your work somewhere soon! Maybe we can bring you to UCSD…

        1. Yep the other factor that puts me off is the likelihood I’d end in a stupid argument with Kieran Healy for precisely that reason, though that’s not a good reason to avoid it.

          I just read your interesting post about interviews. It sounds like we’re dealing with similar issues from slightly different starting points (the reality of biography etc) – are there people working on topics around these areas at UCSD? I’m very interested in trying to firm up the philosophical underpinnings of the methodological work I did in my PhD about how to study biography – particularly the question of WHAT people are telling stories about when they offer self-narratives – you’ve made me think I need to go back and give Heidegger another try.

        2. There really isn’t anyone at UCSD, to my knowledge, working on this stuff, which is why I’ve found your blog so useful. More generally, the debates in American sociology do not deal with those philosophical underpinnings. Methodologically, arguments persist around the value of ethnography versus interviewing–arguments Howard Becker described as old and not very illuminating. The challenge with Heidegger in this regard is finding useful ways to connect his analysis of being to any kind of social science, since social science seems concerned primarily with inauthentic being. And while he is interested in inauthentic being as an inescapable part of the structural whole of existence, it cannot be separated from authentic being. And authentic being is much more difficult to incorporate into existing social theories. Paul Ricoeur has attempted to think about authentic being through collective narratives and the way these narratives guide existence. And Peter Sloterdijk has read Heidegger through philosophers like Foucault, which opens up paths toward a social science that can use Heidegger. The challenge, it seems, is that authentic being both runs counter to routine lived experience and is only accessible through the world of routine lived experience. Where biography falls within this structure is difficult to figure out. In any case, if you do return to Heidegger, I’ll look forward to whatever you write!

        3. I’ve just started reading Sloterdijk for precisely this reason! I’ll get back to you when I’m a little further along.

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