Sophia Krzys Acord, honoured by American Sociological Association


SocArts recent Ph.D. Sophia Krzys Acord was honoured by the American Sociological Association in its prestigious annual Dissertation Award competition. Acord’s 2009 thesis, "Beyond the Code: Unpacking Tacit Knowledge and Embodied Cognition in the Practical Action of Curating Contemporary Art," received an Honourable Mention at this summer’s ASA Awards Ceremony. Acord is the first PhD Dissertation outside of North American ever to receive this honour.

The research for the dissertation was conducted in two elite European arts venues, where Acord shadowed internationally prominent curators of contemporary art through the process of planning and installing two exhibitions. This microethnographic work was supplemented with 34 interviews with other curators of contemporary art, with a particular focus on visual (photo- and video-based) research methods and documentary analysis of the curatorial process.

In Acord’s words, the work “explores how the material, embodied, and situated interactions between curators, objects, and environments are constructed and understood in reflexive relation to more explicitly cognitive and verbal representations, interpretations, and accounts. In planning and installing an exhibition of contemporary art, curators frame artworks and build meaning based on the material and conceptual resources at hand. The plans made by curators when preparing an exhibition and composing textual documentation are altered and elaborated during the installation of contemporary art in the physical presence of the artworks and gallery space. The disjuncture between curatorial plans and these situated actions has consequences for the public presentation and comprehension of the final exhibition. In documenting these processes as they take shape in real time and in relation to material objects, the body, and the built environment, this work aims to contribute to the on-going developments and debates that centre on the creation of a ‘strong’ cultural sociology and to extend core sociological thinking on the social structures and bases of action.”

Acord’s recognition is all-the-more noteworthy since she the first-ever dissertation scholar outside of North American to be so honoured. In addition, her dissertation is also the first in the sociology of the arts to receive this award. Previous recipients over the last decade came from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Duke, Madison, Northwestern, Berkeley, Michigan, Maryland, and NYU. Prior to submitting her dissertation, Dr. Acord worked for two years at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education. She has recently accepted a joint position at the University of Florida, where she will serve as Associate Director of the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere, and a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law.

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