I recently attended the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. It was my first trip to “Sin City” and I wasn’t looking forward to it. In the end, however, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. Apparently, not everyone got over their issues with Vegas. This article details the reaction of some of my colleagues. And this is an interesting letter both in terms of its defense of Vegas and for the characterization of the “egghead” sociologists criticizing the city.
Although I have many of the same concerns and criticisms voiced by socioIogists interviewed, I also agree that those criticisms say a lot about the elite and unreflexive cultural, political and economic positions of the people voicing them. I think that sometimes we as sociologists need to be a little more anthropological and, for me, Vegas was a setting in which anthropological distance provided insight into the orderliness of the seeming chaos of consumption, the underlying sensibility of the apparently irrational exuberance of the tourists, the foundational values upon which the sacred temple of profanitythat is the strip is built. Beyond all these high-falutin reasons for appreciating Vegas, I actually thought it worked well as a conference venue (apart from the cost of food). When we attend a lot of mid-tier cities, there is insufficient infrastructure to accommodate us. This was not the case in Vegas. Finally, the city is not a place that I would visit as a tourist because, quite frankly, I just don’t know how or care to have fun the way you are supposed to have fun on the strip. Since I got to be there as my own egghead self instead of a regular tourist, I was able to experience the place in relative comfort – observing the city in small chunks between sessions and as the backdrop for elbow-rubbing.
Vegas 2016? Bring it.