June 26, 2004

· Sociology

Via Baptiste Coulmont comes word of an effort to establish a new subfield of Sociology. Jim Pass, who as far as I can tell is an adjunct sociology instructor at Long Beach City College, is trying to get Astrosociology [Warning! Monster Java Zombie Nightmare Website from Beyond 1996], off the, uh, ground. He has managed to get a paper on this topic accepted at an Informal Roundtable Session at the upcoming ASA meetings in San Francisco. He’s also organizing an Astrosociology Interest Group meeting[1] for the many, many sociologists who will want to join his proposed section-in-formation.

What is Astrosociology? You may well ask. According to Jim’s helpful email,

Generally, astrosociology is the study of astrosocial phenomena (a subset of all social phenomena)

Well, obviously. My initial thought was that the field would be picking up where Elizabeth Tessier left off. Elizabeth managed to extract a Sociology Ph.D from the Sorbonne a few years ago with the argument that Astrology was as good a science as any other, and vice versa. America is always a few years behind the French trend-setters. But this hope was dashed when I read Jim’s clarification that the field dealt mainly with

all human behaviors related in some way to outer space; a neglected area of sociological inquiry.

Now, it’s true that outer space is a neglected area of sociological inquiry. My naive view was that this was explained by the fact that, at any one time, there are are perhaps three or four people in outer space. That’s enough to keep a social psychologist happy for most of their career, but the rest of us might run into problems. As a great sociologist once said, after all, the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. But Jim is not confining himself to outer space. Although this is a wise move, it makes Astrosociology rather less interesting than it first appears. Jim’s programmatic statement on the field at the roundtable (Table 15: New Ideas in the Sciences) is paired with just one other paper, by Juan Miguel Campanario of the Universidad de Alcala. Unlucky for Juan Miguel, you might think, but his paper title is Resistance to New Ideas In Science, so they should be well set up for a good chat. In a creative scheduling decision, Juan Miguel is also supposed to be speaking simultaneously at Table 16, “Media, Sport and Science.”[2] Bizarrely, his paper title at that Table is Studying the Competence for Space in Sociology Journals. But it’s the wrong kind of space! So near and yet so far!

fn1. Monday August 16, 6:30pm, Union Square 24/San Franciso Hilton. I’ll be there!

fn2. It’s a big tent at the informal roundtables, alright.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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