by Patrizia Albanese, President-elect, Canadian Sociological Association; Chair, Local Organizing Committee of the 2018 ISA World Congress; and Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Canadian sociologists are pleased to share the news that Toronto, Canada, has been selected as the host city for the 2018 ISA World Congress. In the run-up to the World Congress in 2018, we hope to have many opportunities to get to know you, and you us, better. We are a peculiar but friendly bunch, both critical and self-reflexive. Let us begin then with a brief introduction to who we are and what we do.
Canadian Sociology. It is easier to identify what it isn’t, than to determine what it is and what makes us distinct; but to start, it isn’t dull, it isn’t static, it isn’t homogenous, and it isn’t easy to describe in a few words.
Sociology has (almost) always been open to borrowing from within and outside of the traditional disciplines and academia. We are a scavenging profession, not afraid to reach out to places, spaces and ideas typically outside “the norm.” We shed light. We rock boats. We question – even ourselves and what we do for a living. Over the years, like in other sociologies, Canadian sociologists have questioned who we are, what we do, and why we do it. In Canada, Robert Brym (2003), Neil McLaughlin (2005), and Doug Baer (2005), among others, have debated whether Canadian sociology is in crisis. The existence of such discussions and debates is a healthy sign, we think. And to put all concerns to rest, in the words of Mark Twain: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Canadian sociology is alive and well. In fact, the Canadian Sociological Association is growing, as are the reputations of Canadian journals of sociology. Dr. Reza Nakhaie (University of Windsor), the current editor of the Canadian Review of Sociology, the oldest peer-reviewed sociology journal in Canada, recently published an overview of the past 45 years of the journal’s history. In it he noted: “Les articles publiés dans la RCS ont contribué à la production d’un dialogue dynamique entre les sociologues et les autres intellectuels qui représentent le courant dominant et la sociologie scientiﬁque du Canada, qui est universitaire et parfois même critique, radicale et oppositionnelle. En soi, la RCS représente et a constitué un canal pour la diffusion des idées et d’un dialogue entre les professionnels et les critiques universitaires canadiens” (Nakhaie, 2010: 320).
What we hope will always remain true for our discipline is our ability to remain relevant. Sociologies that are not relevant probably deserve to be in crisis. An analysis of program descriptions from 54 English-speaking sociology departments from across Canada found that primarily undergraduate program departments emphasized the practice of critical thinking, the importance of a broad-based liberal arts education and the chance to make a lasting impact on surrounding social conditions (Puddephatt and Nelsen, 2010: 423). If we achieve even some of these with and for our undergraduate students (and even more with our graduate students), we are well on our way to proving our worthiness as a discipline.
To close this brief introductory piece, allow me to share with you the views of some of your colleagues from across Canada. In response to a cross-Canada email request for suggestions on what makes Canadian sociology distinct, for this article, your colleagues in Canada wrote:
And on that note, I close. Canadian sociologists look forward to welcoming you in person, for a lively exchange of ideas in our conference seminar rooms, pubs, and restaurants. Together, we are sure to forge new and exciting collaborations.
Baer, D. (2005) “On the Crisis in Canadian Sociology: Comment on McLaughlin,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 30(4): 491-502.
Brym, R. (2003) “The Decline of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 28: 411-416.
McLaughlin, N (2005) “Canada’s Impossible Science: Historical and Institutional Origins of the Coming-Crisis of Anglo-Canadian Sociology,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 30(1): 1-40.
Nakhaie, R. 2010. “Les 45 années de la Revue canadienne de sociologie (et d’anthropologie).
45 years of the Canadian Review of Sociology (and Anthropology).” Canadian Review of Sociology 47(3): 319-325.
Puddephatt, A. and R.W. Nelsen (2010) “The Promise of a Sociology Degree in Canadian Higher Education.” Canadian Review of Sociology 47(2): 405-430.
 Translation: “The articles published in the CRS have been instrumental in producing dynamic dialogue among sociologists and other intellectuals who represent Canada’s mainstream and scientific sociology which is academic and at times critical, radical and oppositional. As such, the CRS represents and has been an outlet for the dissemination of ideas and dialogue among Canadian professionals and critical academics”.