The North American Chinese Sociologists Association (NACSA) began without a name in the 1970s as an informal pay-as-you-go dinner gathering of Chinese-speaking sociologists in North America during the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Those sociologists included, among others, Haitung King, Ronald Chen, William T. Liu, Lucie Cheng, Che-Fu Lee, Nan Lin, Wen-Hui Tsai, Yung-Mei Tsai, and Esther Chow. While some of these senior sociologists have since retired, all but one of them were or have been active members of NACSA. By 1981, Nan Lin who was then at the State University of New York at Albany decided to form a loose network of Chinese-speaking sociologists and gave it a name—the North American Chinese Sociologists Association. He began collecting membership dues of $10/year to cover some of the expenses in publishing a newsletter and a directory. By the late 1980s, he had succeeded in transforming the group’s annual gathering into a more systematic sharing of information following the dinner during the ASA meetings. Participants from North America got acquainted with one another during the dinner; guests from abroad were introduced to North American Chinese sociologists; and news of sociological research activities developing in China and Taiwan were reported. The medium of verbal communication was Chinese (Mandarin), while the newsletter was published in English.
In 1990 when Nan Lin moved to Duke University, he turned over the task of maintaining this informal network of Chinese-speaking sociologists to Yung-Mei Tsai of Texas Tech University, who agreed to serve for only two years, from September of 1990 to August of 1992. Against the background of history of budget deficits, Yung-Mei Tsai decided to institute a Life Membership Program, as the contributions from the members were irregular and voluntary, which averaged mostly $10 per person. A total of 9 Life Members, each donating $150, were accepted by April 30, 1992. Despite efforts to raise funds, this informal network of sociologists had no budget. The network was not legally an association yet, because it did not have the bylaws, a Board of Directors, and elect officers.
A teaching and research opportunity in Taiwan forced Yung-Mei Tsai to turn over the responsibilities of coordinating NACSA’s activities to Elena Yu four months earlier than originally planned. She agreed to serve as Coordinator of NACSA from May 1, 1992 until August 31, 1994, although no successor was immediately found who would follow her term. Elena Yu’s first action was to file for a Tax Identification Number (T.I.N) with the Internal Revenue Service, followed by an application for a non-profit and tax-exemption status. Next, an annual membership fee was established at $20 effective immediately in 1992, and beginning January 1, 1993, a Life Membership fee of $300 per person was collected. The membership size jumped from 43 to more than 70 within less than 12 months. Among the more than 100 members today, 30 are Life Members. During Elena’s term, she succeeded in obtaining a grant from Ford Foundation for an NACSA-sponsored conference on gender during the ASA meetings in Miami, Florida in 1993 (see elsewhere at this Website). Due to Elena’s wise investment decision, NACSA’s assets would also grow substantially.
In 1995, Dudley Poston succeeded Elena Yu as President of NACSA. During his term, with Alvin So as Secretary-Treasurer, the semi-annual newsletter of the association was on track with extensive information on members’ research activities, conference announcements and programs, and sociological developments in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. NACSA sponsored another conference right before the ASA annual meetings in Toronto in 1997 (see elsewhere at this Website). In 1997, Alvin So was appointed President by the Board to succeed Dudley Poston, and Xiangming Chen became the Secretary and edited the newsletters. In 1998, Alvin So’s career move to Hong Kong led the Board of Directors appointing Xiangming Chen as the next President for a two-year term. Xueguang Zhou became the Secretary and edited the newsletters. In 1999, NACSA sponsored another conference right before the ASA meetings in Chicago (see below). A new President will be appointed at the next Board meeting in 2000. Ping Chun Hsiung will edit the newsletters for the year 2000.
Counting its informal gestation phase, NACSA’s history has spanned over the last two decades of the 20th century. This period has witnessed a most rapid growth in the sociological research on Chinese societies and populations on both sides of the Pacific Rim, especially the People’s Republic of China. This research is characterized by innovative theoretical development, extensive use of both survey and case study methods, and close collaboration between North American sociologists and their Chinese counterparts in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The published research results have made their way repeatedly into the top journals of mainstream sociology in North America. NACSA’s history has also coincided with rapidly growing numbers of students from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong obtaining sociology Ph.D. degrees in North American universities. A significant group of them (estimated in the 30s) has become faculty members at North American universities and colleges, with some establishing themselves at the top-tier sociology departments. Many others have returned to China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to become key players in a new generation of researchers and teachers at universities and institutes. Poised to take advantage of this dynamic research environment and talent pool, NACSA’s prospect in the 21st century looks bright indeed.
*This is partly based on a document written by Elena Yu in 1997.