Reading Ann Mische’s article about the “New York school” (linked off orgtheory) is like eating a home cooked meal without suffering the heat in the kitchen. I’ve always said how lucky I was to be at Columbia in the 1990s, even as an unfunded, allegedly “orphaned” scholar. I took a field trip to see Ivan Chase’s fishes! Allen Cicourel was a visiting scholar and so was Antione Hennion. John Levi Martin gave talks every year for a while, and Bruno Latour gave a huge lecture on his Paris underground project. I interviewed for a job with Robert Merton in his apartment (only to then shadow Liz once she got the job), and the ISERP fellows group included some really impressive people. My TAs were people like David Gibson, Matt Bothner, and Maritsa Poros. My mentor was Jennifer Lee! I took Harrison’s crazy classes, and then argued about his crazy ideas with John Krinsky, Amanda Damarin, Tammy Smith, Leslie Wood. I shared an office with these folks, next door to Chuck Tilly.
I’m obviously still far too breathless about the whole experience and so I’m glad Ann can be analytical. As has recently been made obvious to me, we were trained and we work outside the mainstream, and that makes it easy to treat us with derision. I think the very best quality of the people I lived and worked with was their openness to others’ ideas, no matter how strange or different from their own. That’s just simply not something you find in every part of the field of sociology.