Sociologist Stars

Sally Daly, TASA Executive Officer: 

The International Sociological Association (ISA) World Congress in Toronto this year was huge! Compared with the 500 or so delegates at each TASA annual conference, ISA 2018 received 6000 registrations. Imagine that! The logistics of organising an event that size would be challenging, to say the least. From my TASA Executive Officer (EO) perspective, aside from the sheer number of delegates, I was taken aback by the number of boxes of conference satchels and satchel inserts, the pallet loads of conference handbooks, the multiple clothes racks filled with volunteer t-shirts in various sizes, and the two long rows of registration booths broken down into alphabetic chunks as well as other variables such as Media, Exhibitors and Pre-Registration (unpaid). If I were looking through delegates’ eyes, a difference I may have noticed between a TASA conference and an ISA World Congress, might have been the audience size. Another one may have been the number of ‘star’ sociologists!

I don’t like singling out members; you’re all stars to me! For the purpose of this piece though, I need to confess; I have noticed that some sociologists are revered. Although it’s likely that each TASA member has a different list of ‘sociologist stars’, it would not surprise me if there were a couple of names that appeared on most lists. I am not sure what makes a sociologist a star, perhaps we need a ‘Sociologist Star Status Scale’ (SSSS) to aid with measurement. What I do know, and bringing me to the point of this article (got there eventually!), is how sociologists react in the presence of a sociologist star. No doubt there is a body of research offering explanations for the behaviour which I won’t include here. Instead, I will share my Toronto observations.

For me, Toronto was a reconnaissance and promotional trip to help prepare for ISA Melbourne 2022. In addition to chatting with as many international delegates as I could about how wonderful Melbourne 2022 would be, I planned on meeting and connecting with the ISA (Izabella) and the Canadian Sociological Association (Sherry) Executive Officers, which I did. I am sure both EOs will prove invaluable resources for ISA 2022.

Izabela, ISA Executive Officer

Sherry, CSA Executive Officer

Appreciatively, many attending TASA members were very willing to assist with the promotional side by wearing our ‘Ask Me About Melbourne 2022’ badges. Members found the badges to be a great ice-breaker with delegates from other countries approaching them and asking questions about ISA 2022.

Oddly, this wasn’t the experience for one member; Raewyn Connell. No one approached Raewyn. Unperturbed, Raewyn switched tactics and carried piles of our ISA Melbourne 2022 flyers to hand out at sessions and place on seats. While Raewyn got on with the job, I asked other members for their thoughts on why Raewyn wasn’t a magnet for international delegates’ questions about 2022. To those members, it was obvious; Raewyn is a big star and people don’t approach big stars. My first thought was, ‘how sad’. My second thought was, ‘I need to write about this’ in the hope of changing the experience of at least one TASA member at a TASA conference.

There will be TASA members who are considered stars at our annual conference next week. I really hope this doesn’t come across as condescending, but sociologist stars are people like you and me. They bleed, they cry, they sleep, they eat (yes, they do that…oh, and probably that!). They feel. In my experience, sociologists are a humble bunch who are more than willing to answer questions and share their knowledge and experiences.

Coincidently, the recent Micro-vlog 2-minute truths involving Raewyn and Theresa help support my observations. When I asked Ben, one of the 2-minute truth authors, how the interview with Raewyn came about, he said, ‘We just emailed and asked Raewyn! It felt a bit odd but she was keen and very supportive.’ Not surprisingly, I was stoked because this was a real, and very recent example of a member approaching a sociologist star with a positive outcome. The most recent 2-minute truths with Theresa highlights a similar outcome. With regard to how Stuart Lockie became Theresa’s mentor, she said, ‘…I emailed Stuart and asked him if he would formally be my mentor and he said yes’. Naturally, not all questions/requests will be met with positive responses. But, as the saying goes, if you don’t go after what you want, you will never get it.

I hope you can build the courage to create your own reality at TASA 2018 and approach one of your sociologist stars. In doing so, you will be helping to strengthen and grow sociology. If you need further encouragement and/or assistance with introductions, please do come and see me at the registration desk. In the meantime, click forward a few years on your calendar and mark off 24–30 July 2022 for the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology Melbourne 2022, it’s going to be huge and crawling with sociologist stars!



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