ASA Tackles Social Inequality at the Palais des congrès de Montréal

Author: Sarah Beauchamp       

The American Sociological Association at 112th Annual Meeting in Montreal in 2017.

When the American Sociological Association (ASA) was planning the program for its 112th Annual Meeting, the current political climate in the United States and around the world was top of mind, namely “the omnipresence and the urgency of cultural polarizations as manifested in anti-immigration rhetoric, international refugee crises, domestic racial confrontation, and increased class segregation,” said Michèle Lamont, ASA’s president-elect and chair of the 2017 program committee.

The theme, “Culture, Inequalities, and Social Inclusion Across the Globe,” became even more timely, she said, after Donald Trump was elected president. “I believe that sociologists are better equipped than any other social scientists,” she said, “to address these social processes.”

Michelle Randall, ASA’s director of meeting services, agreed. “The study of social inequality and inclusion are important tenets of sociology as a discipline and practice,” she said. That theme resonated with the 5,000 sociology professionals and academics who came from all over the world to its 112th Annual Meeting in Montreal Aug. 12-15 — as did its host location and venue. The state-of-the-art Palais de congrès de Montréal convention center “is the perfect size and configuration for a meeting of our size,” Randall said. “It is centrally located in the city and is convenient to all the amenities the city has to offer.”

“Montréal has a lot to offer as a meeting location,” Randall said. “It has world class entertainment, dining, museums, and universities — all of which are important to our members.” The center’s downtown location is within walking distance of historic and cultural districts, like Old Montréal, Chinatown, and the arts and entertainment district. It’s also less than a 10-minute walk from more than 15,000 hotel rooms, approximately 4,000 of which are accessible via the underground pedestrian network. Only a 20-minute drive from the Montréal-Trudeau airport, the Palais des congrès is convenient for international attendees.

Montréal — named the No. 1 city for international meetings in North America by the International Congress and Convention Association — attracted ASA attendees from as far away as Japan. Only 29 miles from the border of the United States, and a short flight away from all major North American hubs, Montréal was convenient for attendees coming from the U.S. and Canada as well.

Planning and executing an international meeting at the Palais de congrès was also made easier for ASA by working with the convention center to transport materials. When an event is registered with the Canada Border Services Agency and receives on-site customs clearance privileges, materials can be cleared at the convention center. “The process was very smooth,” Randall said.

For ASA’s 2017 Annual Meeting, Lamont created a “series of programs to address current societal challenges which were very successful,” Randall said. “They addressed issues such as the causes and consequences of Brexit and the U.S. administration’s response to protest and social movements.” There were around 600 sessions covering topics like immigration, gender, culture, education, health, race, and technology. The meeting’s “central goal,” according to Lamont, was to improve “our understanding of the nexus of culture, inequalities, and group boundaries, in order to promote greater social inclusion and resilience, collective well-being, and solidarity in the United States and globally.”


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