Conference Panels, Collaborative Dialogue, Environmental Rights, Professional Meetings


The emergence of Sociologists Without Borders opened up new opportunities for social justice oriented intellectual engagement and collaboration. Given the opportunity to re-imagine the structure and function of professional conferences, a number of us who were focused on issues of environmental justice as a human right came together in 2006 to challenge the traditional model of serial paper presentations at panel sessions. The collaborative dialogue panel brings together sociologists focused on a specific social problem or issue, and asks them to work together to generate questions and answers in a public forum in dialogue with each other and with others attending a session. The goals of a collaborative dialogue panel are to replace serial monologues with sustained dialogue, address critical social issues, and to invite meaningful interaction between panelists and other participants. The idea is to maximize the unique benefits of bringing a group of engaged intellectuals physically together (at great ecological cost) to address social problems, and to leave the reading of papers to other times and places.