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Letter from the Section Chair for Summer 2014 Newsletter, Mabel Berezin (Cornell University)

Even though it is only August, I am guessing that many of you are counting the days before the return of fall’s more routine obligations. With the ASA, less than two weeks away, it is now time for the pre-meeting newsletter. It is also my last chance to address all of you as section Chair.

In contrast to many other ASA sections, the Culture section assigns duties to the Chair-elect—so it really feels like one has been Chair of the section for two years rather than the more traditional one year term.

Going forward, the most striking thing about being chair of the Culture section is the incredible energy and generosity that our elected officers and members bring to section activities. The term “passion” has almost slipped into cliché these days—but nonetheless our members are passionate about our section! Hardly a request for a volunteer or information remains unanswered in our cyber linked world for more than an hour! And, unlike life, in many instances gratification was instant!

As Chair of the section, I became impressed with the wide range of activities and interests of our members as they moved culture into new and exciting areas.

Tim Dowd and his session organizers have put together five wonderful sessions on topics that range from the culture industries to networks to cognition to consumption. In addition, thanks to Claudio Benzercy and Ruth Braunstein, culture is hosting 15 roundtables this year! Ten ASA regular sessions are devoted to culture. ASA President Annette Lareau has organized a Thematic Session on Pierre Bourdieu. Section member Abigail Saguy’s What’s Wrong with Fat? is featured in an Author Meets Critic session. The variety of session topics, as well as the number, is impressive. I encourage you to attend as many as possible (ASA asks us to take attendance!).

Claudio Benzecry and Ruth Braunstein have also organized a book writing workshop with Eviatar Zerubavel for junior scholars who wish to turn their dissertations into scholarly monographs.

The work of the section goes beyond the meetings. This year we had a record number of submissions to our prize committees.

We have to thank the committee heads Genevieve Zubrzycki (book), Peter Stamatov (article) and Xiaohong Xu (graduate student paper) as well as their committee members for all of their hard work. The recipients of the awards will receive their prizes at the Business Meeting and we will hear more about their wonderful research.

In addition, with David Smilde’s guidance, we managed to produce a special issue of Qualitative Sociology 37 (2) on research methods in cultural analysis.

As my chair period ends, we continue our robust enrollments with 1,145 members—largest ASA section. We look forward to thinking about celebrating the section’s 30th anniversary in 2016.

It has been a wonderful experience for me to serve the section as Chair. I thank all of you who have helped me along the way. A special thanks to our intrepid newsletter team, Claudio Benzecry, Jonathan Wynn and Andrew Deener who patiently wait for my Chair’s letter! A warm welcome to our new newsletter team Ailsa Craig, Alexandra Kowalski, and Erin O’Connor.
I happily turn over the position of chair to Tim Dowd of Emory, and welcome our new chair-elect Genevieve Zubrzycki of Michigan.

But let’s not end here—for all of you who are in San Francisco, please come to the business meeting (11:30 Monday, August 18) for more thank yous and introductions. And of course come to our reception at 6:30 Monday at the Wyndham Parc for what Georg Simmel would call an exercise in “Sociability”, or our section reception--if you prefer!