George Mason Hosts Innovative Sociology of Culture Conference

Posted: July 12, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Hope J Smith

Mark Jacobs, Sociology and Anthropology, and Barry Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Georgia, are organizing a miniconference on August 10 and 11 titled “Millennial Issues in the Sociology of Culture.” The conference is designed to be participatory and interactive, and to serve as a forum for scholars to discuss the major issues in the sociology of culture. The registration deadline is July 15.

At traditional conferences, “there really isn’t much of a chance [for scholars] to explore or to allow issues to energize,” says Jacobs. What makes this conference unique is its format. “It’s a conversation place versus the usual presentation space,” says George Mason doctoral student and conference assistant Deborah Gelfand.

After short presentations and discussion periods, participants break into workshops covering topics such as culture and art, including a discussion of the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s controversial Sensations exhibit; culture and cognition; and culture and politics. The chairs will even be arranged in a circle for these sessions, a classroom technique designed to invite an exchange of ideas.

In another unique twist, the discussion begins before the conference even opens. Speakers may post their remarks on the conference website for attendees to read and respond to online. With the initial remarks out of the way, participants can get right down to business. “It’s more a think tank than a typical paper presentation conference,” says Gelfand. In addition, she notes that the discussions can continue after the conference is over, allowing for more scholarly sharing.

This miniconference is designed to lead into the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) in Washington, D.C., the next weekend. It is cosponsored by the Center for Arts and Culture, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank concerned with issues of cultural policy; ASA’s Sociology of Culture Section; and George Mason. The conference also is supported by the Provost’s Office in the form of a Celebration of Learning grant, by the dean’s office of the College of Arts and Sciences, and by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. For more information, contact Jacobs at or Gelfand at To register, visit the conference website.

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