Friday, January 16, 2004

under the wire

Sociologists all over the country have been rushing around the last 24 hours to meet the online-paper-submission deadline for the Annual Meetings in August. Deadline was midnight, Pacific Standard Time. You know you are putting things off to the last minute when somebody tells you the last day you can turn something in and you not only ask what's the latest possible time on the last possible day but what's the most westward time zone for which that latest possible time applies.

Anyway, Devah Pager and Jeremy Freese (she's the DJ; I'm the rapper) get their paper "Who Gets A Helping Hand?" submitted almost a full hour in front of the deadline.

When you are ready to submit your paper online, you have to choose which sessions you would like it sent to from this very long list that reminds you how hopelessly sparse and scattered sociology is.

Someone decided this year that all the social psychology sections should have the words "sociobehavioral processes" in the title. So, "sociobehavioral processes and the economy," "sociobehavioral processes and culture," "green sociobehavioral processes and ham," and so on. I am a sociological social psychologist in good standing with the American Sociological Association. Let me proclaim this to the world: I have no earthly idea what a "sociobehavioral process" is. "sociobehavioral" would seem to be the adjectival form of "sociobehavior," and just so there is no ambiguity on this, let me also proclaim: I have no idea what a sociobehavior is supposed to be. Is it just a way of shortening social behavior to one word by actually adding a syllable? Your guess is at least as good as mine.

Sociology has shown this remarkable disciplinary ingenuity for coming up with turns of phrase sufficiently expansive that, despite the wild cacophonous diversity of intellectual projects that come to play in sociology, the language builds a sandbox large enough for everyone to build their little castles comfortably. One might complain that among the costs of this are occasionally neologisms evacuated of all meaning (and kinda silly looking, to boot). On the other hand, I suppose, one could argue that the periodic invention of new phrases with an even larger and more vague intellectual circumference actually represents some of the high creative moments for the discipline. And so, at precisely 3AM (one hour after the midnight deadline), I raise my glass of water to my monitor and offer a toast to sociobehavioral processes. Hooray!

Update, 3:10 AM: By the way, I almost feel guilty for the above text, as I feel like I was sort of picking on "sociobehavioral" unfairly, given that I let the cryptohackneyed "process" off with a free ride...

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