Colleagues and Quests For Immortality

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Joseph HERMANOWICZ , Sociology, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Achievement in the professions is situated relationally.  Work comes to constitute contribution only by the judgments of colleagues.  This is paradigmatically the case in science and scholarship, a realm understood to be imbued by charismatic authority, where colleagues not only sanction behavior but also serve as a conduit by which others are immortalized for their contributions.  Normatively, it would stand to reason that colleagues would be held in high regard; the work of science, and the lives of scientists and scholars, depend on them.  The present work, however, examines empirically how incumbents value colleagues in actuality.  Taking academia as a site for analysis, the present work investigates one aspect of the social significance of colleagues by asking how scientists might desire being remembered by them.  The study is thus centered on two social-psychological concerns: the importance, if any, that incumbents assign to colleagues and the specific attribution to colleagues of how incumbents would like to be regarded.  Data come from in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 60 scientists at a variety of points in their careers and employed at a range of types of universities.  The results reveal a highly circumscribed set of ways—just eight in number—that scientists wish to be remembered.  Ways of remembrance cluster on professional versus personal grounds, which constitute a contest in the politics of reputation and commemoration.  In addition, responses vary by departmental tier, age, and productivity.  The discussion exposes social codes of scientists, which, while purportedly unequal and contradictory, are used to project a transcendent route to remembrance, nestled in the context of work values, norms, and perceptions.  Anticipation of the self in memoriam is argued to constitute a principal means by which people socially construct status.

The paper is fully written and complete.  The presentation will discuss its major points.