Website for the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association
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The Edward Shils - James Coleman Memorial Award

The ASA Theory Section is committed to advancing sociological theory in both scholarly as well as professional respects. Neatly fulfilling this dual end, the section awards prizes for the best publications in sociological theory (the Theory Prize), the best papers written by students (the Shils-Coleman Student Prize), and career achievement in sociological theory (Lewis Coser Award).

shilsThe Shils-Coleman Award, in honor of eminent sociologists Edward Shils and James Coleman, recognizes distinguished work in the theory area by a graduate student. Work may take the form of (a) a paper published or accepted for publication; (b) a paper presented at a professional meeting; of (c) a paper suitable for publication or presentation at a professional meeting. Details on the most current competition are typically posted on the Announcements page. 

Below are details for the awardees from these years:

2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, & 1996..

James S. Coleman"The action, or behavior, of the system composed of actors is an emergent consequence of the interdependent actions of the actors who make up the system."
-James S. Coleman
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  arrow up    2011 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: MARGARET FRYE
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This year's winner of the Edward Shils - James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper is Margaret Frye (University of California, Berkeley) for her paper  "Bright Futures in Malawi's New Dawn: Educational Aspirations as Assertions of Identity" (forthcoming in American Journal of Sociology).

The 2012 Shils-Coleman award committee members were much appreciated.

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  arrow up    2011 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ALVARO SANTANA ACUÑA
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This year's winner of the Edward Shils - James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper is Álvaro Santana Acuña (Harvard University) for his paper, "How a Literature Book Becomes a Classic: The Case of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude."

Honorable Mention for this award goes to Anna Paretskaya (New School for Social Research) for "The Soviet Communist Party and the Other Spirit of Capitalism" (Sociological Theory, December 2010).

The 2011 Shils-Coleman award committee members were Vanina Leschziner (chair), Anne Kane, Monica Krause, Erik Schneiderhan, and Marc Garcelon.

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  arrow up    2010 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: JEREMY SCHULZ
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Jeremy Schulz

This year's winner of the Edward Shils - James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper is Jeremy Schulz (Department of Sociology, University of California at Berkeley) for his paper “The Social and Cultural Construction of the Work-Private Life Boundary in Three Countries: A Comparative Study of the Evening Hours in the Lives of French, Norwegian and American Business Professionals.”

Honorable Mention was accorded to Thomas Buschman, Austin Choi-Fitzpatric, Michael Strand and Brandon Vaidyanathan (University of Notre Dame) for their paper “Causality in Contemporary American Sociology."

The 2010 Shils-Coleman award committee members were Daniel Adkins (Virginia Commonwealth University), Erin Cornwell (Cornell University), Thomas Medvetz (University of California at San Diego), Robb Willer (University of California at Berkeley), and Edward Tiryakian, chair (Duke University).

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  arrow up    2009 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: MICHAEL STRAND
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Michael Strand

Michael Strand (University of Notre Dame) has been named the winner of the 2009 Edward Shils-James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper in the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association.

The 2009 Shils-Coleman award committee members were Peter Callero (chair, Western Oregon University), Chuck Powers (Santa Clara University), Lisa Rashotte (UNC Charlotte), Stephen Sanderson (UC Riverside), and David Wagner (SUNY Albany).

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      2008 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ERIN METZ MCDONNELL
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Erin Metz McDonnell (Northwestern University) has been named the winner of the 2008 Edward Shils-James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper in the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association  for her paper "Budgetary Units: A Weberian Approach to Consumption" 

Honorable mentions were given to Stefan Bargheer (University of Chicago) for "The Fools of the Leisure Class: Honor, Ridicule, and the Emergence of Animal Protection Legislation in England, 1740-1840" and Becky Hsu (Princeton University) for "Mismatched Moral Dispositions and Economic Logics: Social Collateral, Liability, and Microcredit in Rural China". 

The 2008 Shils-Coleman award committee members were Joseph Gerteis (Chair), Alison Bianchi, Phaedra Daipha, and Ron Jacobs. 

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  blank    2007 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: WILLIAM WOOD
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William Wood (Boston College) has been named the winner of the 2007 Edward Shils-James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper in the Theory Section of the American Sociological Association for his paper "(Virtual) Myths."  This paper examines notions of territoriality and space and calls for a stronger sociological examination of these concepts. The paper fits well with section chair Karin Knorr-Certina's call for an examination of "extreme theory" at the 2007 meetings because it takes on a largely under-examined sociological issue and makes a profound contribution towards basic conceptualizations of why this issue matters and how it can be studied. As one committee member put it, "The cultural logic is so well captured that it is able to make a convincing argument that geographical mapping of the pre- and colonial era is related to our contemporary mapping of the genome -and that both are practices of control and ordering of the Western culture based on technological/scientific rationality."  The paper was published in 2004 in Critical Sociology, Vol. 30 No. 4 (July). 

Honorable mentions were given to Gabriel Abend (Northwestern), Stefan Kluseman (UPenn), and Isaac Reed (Yale). 

The 2007 Shils-Coleman award committee members were Dustin Kidd, Chair (Temple), Vida Bajc (University of Pennsylvania), and JoAnn Brooks (Bentley College)

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  blank    2005 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: DANIEL ADKINS
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adam Daniel E. Adkins (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill) has been named the winner of the 2005 Edward Shils - James Coleman Memorial Award for Best Student Paper. Mr. Adkins' paper, "Unified Stratification Theory: Structure, Genome and Status across Human Societies," is an innovative synthesis of classic stratification research and contemporary genetics. The Shils-Coleman Committee was impressed by Adkins' creative blending of sociological theory on the social structural determinants of status attainment with geneticists' insights on genomic influences on phenotypes. Adkins' model predicts that social structural factors (e.g., levels of inequality, social closure) mediate the extent to which the genome influences ability formation as well as the extent to which ability influences status outcomes. The paper represents a notable contribution to sociological theorizing through its explicit recognition of the role of genetics in sociological processes and outcomes.

The 2005 Shils-Coleman Award Committee members were Lisa Troyer, Chair (University of Iowa), Noah P. Mark (Stanford University), Gretchen Peterson (California State University, Los Angeles), Lisa Slattery Rashotte (University of North Carolina, Charlotte), and Brent Simpson (University of South Carolina).

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  blank    2004 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: SCOTT LEON WASHINGTON
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summers-effler The 2004 Shils-Coleman Award went to Scott Leon Washington of the Department of Sociology at Princeton University for his paper: "Principles of Racial Taxonomy"uparrow. Using a variety of examples, this paper explores the peculiar nature of racial taxonomy: a particular type of taxonomic practice which involves the sifting and the sorting of putative groups whose members are generally believed to either be or belong to a distinct "race." After discussing the difference between monothetic and polythetic systems of racial classification, the paper presents a series of hypotheses pertaining to the potential impact of different principles of racial taxonomy on the structure and the severity of different systems of racial stratification. The paper ends on a programmatic note, with a section which emphasizes the importance of undertaking a doubly comparative approach to the study of "race" in different regions across the globe.

The 2004 Shils-Coleman Award Committee members were Adrian Favell (UCLA), Marion Fourcade-Gourinchas (University of California-Berkeley), Kieran Healy (University of Arizona), John Meyer (Stanford), and Charles Camic (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Chair. 

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  blank    2003 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ERIKA SUMMERS-EFFLER
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brekhus This year's winner of the Shils-Coleman Memorial award is Erika Summers-Effler from the University of Pennsylvania, for her paper "The Micro Potential for Social Change: Emotion, Consciousness and Social Movement Formation," Sociological Theory 20(1):41-60, 2002. The paper merges ideas from Collins's theory of interaction rituals, Wiley's model of self, and contemporary research in the sociology of emotions, to explain how subordinate groups develop a critical consciousness and the inertia for change. Overall, the paper is highly original and an elegant contribution to theory.
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  blank    2002 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ADAM ISAIAH GREEN
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pdf The Shils-Coleman Memorial Award is given each year by the Section on Theory to the best submitted social theory paper by a current graduate student. This year's award goes to Adam Isaiah Green of New York University for his paper "Gay But Not Queer: Toward a Post Queer Study of Sexuality," Theory and Society, August 2002. Green's paper provides a sympathetic critique of the contribution of queer theory to the sociology of sexuality. While lauding the "critical intervention" that queer theory has made, particularly in interrogating conceptions of normative sexuality, Green argues that a single minded use of queer theory's deconstructive methods "glosses over the institutional character of sexual identity and the shared social roles that sexual actors occupy." Green finds that queer theory's "discursively burdened, textual idealism" leaves us with a surprisingly undersocialized understanding of sexuality. The tools of queer theory, while indeed useful, do not shed much light on "the socio-historical forces that shape sexual practice and identity," he writes. Moreover, he finds that queer theory's deconstructionist and subversive agenda often diverts its practitioners from empirical cornplexities and the "complex developmental processes attendant to sexual identification." Ultimately, he concludes by calling for a 'post queer' study of sexuality that incorporates the critical insights of queer theory while maintaining the grounded footing of empirical sociology.... If scholars of sexuality are to account for erotic subjectivities, practices and communities, they must more fully engage the social landscape in which erotic actors are situated." The Award Committee was joined in its enthusiasm for Green's work by the journal Theory and Society, which has now accepted his paper for publication. 

The Award Committee also awarded an Honorable Mention to Karen Danna Lynch for her excellent paper "Schemas and Schematic Thematization: Keys to Understanding Multiple Role Enactment."

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  blank    2001 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
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  The committee received nine very strong submissions for the award, and selected an overall winner as well as one Honorable Mention. The 2001 Shils-Coleman award went to Christopher Stevens of the University of Virginia, for his paper titled "The Predictable Nature of the Balinese Cockfight." In this paper, Stevens uses Donald Black's theory of partisanship to make predictions about the behavior of participants in Clifford Geertz's description of the Balinese cockfight. For example, since the theory explains that partisanship is a function of the social status of the adversaries, Stevens predicts that the betting, and indeed the cheering, will be highest when the social status of the opposing cock owners is highest, and the least betting will occur in the opposite case, when the social status of the owners is lowest. Stevens uses Geertz's description as evidence to support his predictions. He then uses this application and test of theory to argue that one can employ a general theory to predict and explain cultural phenomena. His use of Geertzs work is, of course, delicious irony because as Stevens notes, Geertz himself is "one of the foremost protagonists of the view that culture is immune to science." And so, Stevens states, "the importance of this paper is not to demonstrate the predictable nature of the Balinese cockfight, per se" but rather to illustrate the promise of "social science to predict and explain any aspect of social life, including that which is viewed as impossible to explain." 

We also wish to congratulate Scott Harris of the University of Oregon for an Honorable Mention for his paper titled "The Social Construction of Equality in Everyday Life" which can be found in the journal Human Studies 23(4): 371-393, October 2000. In this paper, Harris uses the interactionist perspectives of Herbert Blumer, Alfred Shutz and Harold Garfinkle to begin to explain the interpretive and experiential aspects of equality, a concept we usually take as given or self evident, or rathet its absence, that is inequality, which we typically think about and measure as an objective quantity. He also incorporates the work of John Dewey to propose how we might think about pragmatically (in real lifé) and in research "the social construction of equality."

Committee members: Denise Anthony, Chair, Michael Macy, Sigi Lindenberg, David Sculli, and John Skvoretz

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  blank    2000 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ALISON BIANCHI
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adkins The Shils-Coleman Committee is charged with awarding the graduate student prize for the Theory Section. The committee members this year were Karen Cook, Michael Lovaglia, Jane Sell, Geoff Tootell and Joseph Whitmeyer. The committee received ten nominations and where there was a conflict of interest, the ranking of the person with the conflict was not used. The committee found many of the papers meritorious. 

The winner of the Shils-Coleman Memorial Award this year is Alison Bianchi from Stanford University. Ms. Bianchi's paper, "Sentiment and Status Processes: A Test Between the Constitutive and Mediator Models," examines the specific mechanism by which sentiment structures affect status structures. Her analysis and empirical test is directed toward determining whether sentiments act like a status element in shaping expectations or whether sentiments intervene between the formation of expectation states and the development of behavior. She conducts a creative study in which negative sentiment is examined in two different contexts --one in which the actor has full responsibility for the team effort, and one in which the actor is only advisory. In concert with the mediator interpretation of sentiment, the negative sentiment affected only the actor in the advisory role, not the decision-maker. Consequently, her formulation demonstrates that sentiment does not, by itself, constitute a status element.

Susan Chimonas, from the University of Michigan, was awarded Honorable Mention for her paper, "Back to the Drawing Board: Irony, Moral Panic Theory, and the Study of Social Problems." Ms. Chimonas' paper rejects what she terms the "artificial dichotomy between ideology and material life." She draws upon the work of Foucault to formulate a contextual constructionist approach to social problems. To illustrate her arguments, Chimonas analyzes and critiques the issue of moral panics, situations defined by sociologists as public reactions to social problems that are out of propor-tion to the actual "threat." The committee commends Chimonas on her clear prose and insightful analysis.

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  blank    1999  Shils-Coleman Award Winner: ERIC KLINENBERG
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  The 1999 Shils-Coleman Prize committee -consisting of Joan Alway, Gary Dworkin, Nina Eliasoph, Bob Wuthnow, and Jeffrey Olick as chair- awarded this year's prize to Eric Klinenberg, a Ph.D. candidate at Berkeley, for "Denaturalizing Disaster: A Social Autopsy of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave," Theory and Society, 28(2):239-295, April 1999. The paper proposes a theoretical model for analyzing extreme events, weaving together the legacies of Marcel Mauss and Emile Durkheim, the early Chicago school and the new urban sociology, and the political sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. The article, which was published in Theory and Society (April 1999), is based on Kleinenberg's dissertation, "Dying Alone: A Social Autopsy of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave." Congratulations to the winner, and thanks to the others who submitted an impressive crop of papers.
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  blank    1998 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: WAYNE BREKHUS
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bianchi The 1998 Shils-Coleman Award for the best graduate student paper was awarded to Wayne Brekhus from Rutgers University for his article "A Sociology of the Unmarked: Redirecting Our Focus," sociological Theory (1998) 16:34-51. In his article, Brekhus draws imaginatively on the rarely-used-in-sociology distinction between marked and unmarked features of language, to advance the argument that much of American sociology epistemologically privileges the "marked" (politically salient yet ontologically uncommon) features of social reality at the expense of the far more abundant "unmarked." Brekhus argues that the tendency to form "epistemological ghettos" around the marked not only hinders theory develop-ment but often ironically reproduces common-sense stereotypes of the marked. In order to correct this situation, he proposes three methodological strategies toward a sociology of the unmarked: (a) explicitly foregrounding that which is conventionally unnoticed (and therefore also un-named), (b) marking everything with the same degree of epistemological ornamentation, and (c) developing an analytically nomadic perspective that approaches social phenomena from multiple vantage points. The article contributes to sociological theory, cognitive sociology and the sociology of knowledge. 

The Shils-Coleman Prize is an annual prize, begun in 1996, to recognize distinguished work in the theory area by a graduate student. Members of the prize committee were David Sciulli, chair, Elisa Jayne Bienenstock, Mustafa Emirbayer, Mark A. Schneider, and Geoffrey H. Tootell.

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  blank    1996 Shils-Coleman Award Winner: TIM BERARD
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The first ever Shils-Coleman Prize was awarded to Tim Berard of Boston University for his paper "Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, and the Reformulation of Social Theory." The paper was subsequently published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 29(3):203-227 [1999]. The paper reconsiders Foucault's contributions to social theory in light of his final project on the history of sexuality. It places Foucault's work in a broader intellectual context including Nietzsche, Weber, and the Frankfurt School, and critically assesses several influential criticisms of Foucault's works. 
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