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American Sociological Association


History of Sections in ASA

Sections have had two different “incarnations” in the ASA over the last 100 years. The original introduction of Sections occurred in 1921 at the instigation of the Rural Sociology Group. Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting held on December 28, 1921, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, report the following:

"Professor Dwight Sanderson as chairman of the group on Rural Sociology made a statement, outlining its history and its desire to become a section of the American Sociological Society with its meeting at a time set apart for this and other groups. The Secretary on behalf of the group on Social Research made a similar statement. Motion made and carried that an invitation be extended to the rural sociologists to become a section in the Society, and its program, after consultation with the President, to be incorporated in the general program. Moved and carried that a similar invitation be given to the group on social research.” (Proceedings of 1921 Annual Meeting, page 272)

Both groups accepted the invitation and became the first Sections of the Society starting with the 1922 Annual Meeting. After the successful launch of these two Sections, the Executive Committee, aware of other groups that were interested in affiliating with ASA in this way, empowered the President and Secretary "to grant recognition to groups wanting to be Sections." At the same time, each Section was allocated three pages in the official Proceedings.

Minutes of the December 29, 1924, Executive Committee meeting in Chicago, Illinois, report the following:

"After some discussion of the relation to the Society of groups and organizations representing special interests, Professor Weatherly made a motion which carried that the President, Secretary, and one representative from each section within the Society and, by invitation, from organizations outside the Society, constitute an advisory committee to formulate a policy for the co-ordinating in the program both the general and special interests of members of the Society, provided that the policy recommended be referred to the Executive Committee for action."

In 1924, a Section on International Relations appeared on the Annual Meeting program but did not return in subsequent years. The Section on Social Research and the Section on Rural Sociology both played roles in the 1924 Annual Meeting.

The 1925 Annual Meeting program included seven Sections:

  • Section on Social Research
  • Section on Rural Sociology
  • Section on Community Organization
  • Section on the Teaching of the Social Sciences in the Schools
  • Section on the Family
  • Section on the Sociology of Religion
  • Section on Educational Sociology

Minutes of the December 29, 1925, Executive Committee Meeting held in New York City reported the following:

"President Robert E. Park made a report for the Committee on the Relations of the Sections to the Society, recommending the appointment of a Committee on Sections, with the president of the society as its chairman and to be composed of the chairmen of the different sections and the chairman of the Committee on Social Research, with a regular meeting on the first day of the annual meeting of the Society. A motion made by Professor Bogardus passed, accepting the report authorizing the appointment of a Standing Committee on Sections."

By the time of the 1930 Annual Meeting the number of Sections had grown to the following:

  • Section on Rural Sociology
  • Section on Social Statistics
  • Section on Educational Sociology
  • Section on Teaching of Sociology
  • Section on Community
  • Section on Sociology of Religion
  • Section on Sociology of the Family
  • Section on Sociology and Social Work
  • Section on Sociology and Psychiatry

This structure remained in place until the late 1950s when Council decided to make Sections a more vital part of the Association. The Report of the Secretary on 1957-58 included the following item entitled "Establishment of a Mechanism for Creating Sections":

"The American Sociological Society will accord official recognition to Sections composed of members with common interests in substantive fields within sociology, and will extend cooperation in matters of program planning, mailings to members, and in other matters as decided from time to time by Council. A group of members may be considered by the Council for recognition as a Section if it meets the following requirements: (1) a minimum of 200 members subscribing to the American Sociological Society a mailing fee of $1.00 each, and (2) the organization of a committee for the Section to cooperate with the Program Committee regarding its part in the annual meetings."

After that, Sections became active throughout the year rather than just during the Annual Meeting. As of September 2004, there were 42 full-fledged Sections in the ASA with more than 20,000 memberships. There was one Section-in-formation, one proposal from a new group asking to become a Section-in-formation, one proposal circulating among members gathering support to become a Section-in-formation, and at least two groups actively studying whether they want to become Sections in the ASA.

Sections are extremely active informing their members about research and happenings of interest to the sub-group. They publicize job openings and grant opportunities of interest to their group, review books focused on their specialty, present awards, host online threaded discussions, co-host international conferences, and in one case, publish a journal.

Since the launch of modern Sections in 1958, only one Section has been discontinued: Visual Sociology attempted to form as a Section around 1980 but was unable to secure sufficient membership support to become a full Section of the Association.




Last Updated on January 08, 2005