see you in toronto

Okay, so probably most of you probably aren’t at the Social Science History Association meetings in Toronto over the next few days. But some of you will be. And those lucky folks are in for four days of interdisciplinary historical social science (program here).

SSHA is my favorite conference. I’ve only been going for four or five years, but it’s quickly become the one I can’t stand to miss.

My understanding — I feel like this story used to be on the SSHA website, but I can’t find it there now — is that the organization was started in the 1970s, when quantitative history was becoming a thing. It brought together interested historians, historical demographers and economic historians, and comparative-historical sociologists into one place — basically, anyone who was interested in historical social science, or the social scientific study of history.

Over the years it’s grown and evolved, as trends have come and gone in its component disciplines. I’ve often heard SSHA described as three separate conferences that happen to meet in the same place at the same time — one of comparative-historical folks, one of historical demographers, and…I’m not sure what the third is. Economic historians? This may be true, but they all seem to get along pretty well, so far as I can tell. Maybe we’re just grateful to be somewhere where historical research doesn’t have to be justified.

However, my impression is that in the few years I’ve been going, SSHA has been attracting more and more sociologists, including a surprising number who don’t do historical work. (For example: Alice Goffman is doing an author-meets-critics panel this year. But that’s just one instance of many.)

On the one hand, it’s basically the people I like hanging out with, so awesome. On the other, I’m not sure what it means for the future of SSHA, if it becomes “Berkeley-Michigan sociology” rather than “interdisciplinary history.”

I organized a couple of panels on experts and policy (see after the jump), which I think have shaped up really well, and am presenting a paper on how the (brief) government craze for systems analysis helped spread economists throughout the federal bureaucracy in the 1960s.

I’d say drop me a line if you want to grab coffee, but you know, I’ll probably run into you.

Experts, “Randomistas,” and Bureaucratic Disorganizers around the World

Friday, 2:15 – 4:15pm Nova Scotia

Chair: Daniel Hirschman, Michigan (Sociology)

Explaining ‘Developmental Capture’ of the State
Joseph Harris, Boston University (Sociology)

Evaluation Expertise the and Work of the Democratic Everyman
Diana Graizbord, Brown University (Sociology)

The Randomistas: The Growth of an Experimental Thought Collective in Development Studies
Kevin Donovan, University of Michigan (Anthropology and History)

First to the Fiscal Trough: Fiscal Professionals as Bureaucratic Disorganizers in an Era of Public Austerity
Josh Pacewicz, University of Chicago (Sociology)

The Fractured Field: Power and Economic Expertise in the Russian Government across Two Decades of Crisis
Adam Leeds, University of Pennsylvania (Anthropology)

Bureaucrats, Beltway Bandits, and Political Struggles over Expertise and Public Policy

Friday, 4:30 – 6:30pm Salon 8, 19th Floor

Chair: Lisa Stampnitzky, Harvard University (Social Studies)

Social Science Funding under Siege in More Conservative Times: The Case of the U.S. National Science Foundation during the 1970s
Mark Solovey, University of Toronto (History and Philosophy of Science)

The Uneasy Association of Systems Analysis and Systems Engineering in Cold War Governance
Gerald Berk, University of Oregon (Political Science)

Between Ivory Towers and Beltway Bandits: Pentagon Social Knowledge in the 1970s
Joy Rohde, University of Michigan (Public Policy)

Does It Matter Who the Bureaucrats Are? Economists and the Changing Cognitive Infrastructure of U.S. Politics
Elizabeth Popp Berman, University at Albany, SUNY (Sociology)

Imagined Competition: Pricing Interconnection and Contestability in the Absence of a Market
David Reinecke, Princeton University (Sociology)


Written by epopp

November 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I’m a huge fan of SSHA. The panels are always incredibly engaging and the crowd isn’t so overwhelming that you have limited time to chat with folks. Wish I could make it this year!


    Alex Hanna

    November 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm

  2. I think the keys are two-hour panels, and they all have discussants, so people have to pre-circulate the paper. More time + better preparedness = high quality panels.

    Liked by 1 person


    November 6, 2014 at 6:31 pm

  3. Toronto… Ontario?



    November 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm

  4. Is there another one?



    November 6, 2014 at 9:07 pm

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