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Meaningful role

Sociologist named editor-in-chief of Symbolic Interaction

Teaching and Learning

By Chad Pelley

A member of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has a new feather in her cap: editor-in-chief for the academic journal Symbolic Interaction.

Dr. van den Scott wears a purple shirt over a yellow shirt with a colourful necklace and is standing in front of a bookcase
Dr. van den Scott is pleased that the editor-in-chief position will allow her to mentor junior scholars with potential.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Lisa-Jo K. van den Scott, associate professor and undergraduate liaison for the Department of Sociology, didn’t plan on assuming the role, but the search committee sought her out and asked her to apply.

“Having been guest editor for several journals, and an associate editor for the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, I had the right experience and the timing happened to work out. So, I was very lucky.”

Understanding social movements

Symbolic Interaction is the official publication of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, an institution, and a field of sociology, Dr. van den Scott has long admired.

The study of symbolic interaction is increasingly popular these days as a way of understanding social movements, such as addressing systematic racism in our institutions.

There’s a meaningful personal connection to the journal for her as well, because both of her parents are sociologists and symbolic interactionists.

“There is a legacy, there, for me.”

Symbolic interactionism

The journal publishes research and developments in the field of symbolic interactionism. As Dr. van den Scott puts it, the field of symbolic interaction is guided by three premises.

“First, we act towards things — people, ideas, objects — according to the meaning those things have for us. Second, those meanings are formed through our unique interactions with other people, ideas and objects. Third, those meanings can change through further interaction.”

“[Symbolic interaction] promotes a methodology that is respectful of participants as experts in their own lives.” — Dr. Lisa-Jo K. van den Scott

The study of symbolic interaction is increasingly popular these days as a way of understanding social movements, such as addressing systematic racism in our institutions, or reframing our understanding of gender identity.

Personally, Dr. van den Scott appreciates how the field of symbolic interaction fits well with Indigenous methodologies, as well as feminist methodologies.

“It has been fighting for these methods for decades,” she said. “It promotes a methodology that is respectful of participants as experts in their own lives.”

BIPOC inclusion

Dr. van den Scott says she has always enjoyed service work and that the editor-in-chief position is not only one of service, but also one in which she can help identify and mentor junior scholars with potential.

In addition, she says she has been able to choose associate editors with an eye to equity and BIPOC representation.

“I am a woman who comes from Jewish ethnicity and is a Bahá’í,” she said. “I feel a responsibility to step up so there are people in positions of power who have experienced the flip side of male privilege and Christian privilege. I strive to build a team that includes people who have faced the flip side of white privilege. So, this position is quite meaningful to me.”


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