Using multiple methods to study the American Sociological Association (ASA) graduate student paper awards as a boundary object, we demonstrate how specialization transforms the historical power structure of the sociological discipline. The prize as a boundary object captures the innovative, often invisible, strategies employed by the young professionals to position themselves in a highly competitive field. The specialization of US sociology has historically relied on organizational structure provided by ASA sections to cultivate professionalization. However, the increasing rigidity of the sections in the 21st century has made them immune to organic changes. In this paper we explore how members can improvise change from within the sections. What kind of strategies do the members employ to further evolve the intellectual trajectory of the discipline? What are the possible pathways through which institutional change is envisioned? What kind of invisible codes underlie the institutional structures that are the outcome of these transformations? To answer these questions, we choose to focus on the graduate student award conferred by each section annually. In our analysis the signaling potential of the graduate student paper award is interpreted as a boundary object, which captures the intersection of institutional and disciplinary changes since the 1980s. We built a novel dataset consisting of 1,611 graduate student paper award winners in all sections of the ASA since the respective award’s inception from 1981 to 2020. The dataset allows us to study the organizational transformation of the discipline of sociology in the last three decades. We find certain institutionalized mechanisms in the professionalization process allowed the elitism of the discipline to be reproduced although initially sections provided an avenue for broad participation particularly against the elite class dominating ASA historically. Finally, using graduate student awards as a boundary object allows us to make visible the innovative strategies of students that aim to create cross sectional expertise.
About the Speakers
Shirin Barol and Nina Kiderlin are PhD Candidates in Sociology at the Institute.
The Joint ANSO / IHP Tuesday Seminars is a regular series of discussions co-organized by the International History and Politics and Anthropology and Sociology Departments at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies to discuss a variety of global questions from a multiplicity of historically and ethnographically-informed perspectives.
The Seminars take place every Tuesday from 16:15 to 18:00 in Seminar Room 5 (S5) at the Graduate Institute (Maison de la paix), and are followed by an apero open to the attending public.