A brief history

by George Psathas

The Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (SPHS) held its first offical meetings in 1981 jointly with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) at Northwestern University though preliminary discussions and preparations for the new Society had been in progress for a few years before this.

Among the founding organizers were George Psathas and D. Laurence Wieder (both in sociology) who became the first Co-Chairs of the Society, and Fred Dallmayer, political science, Lester Embree, philosophy, Paul Richer, psychology, David Seamon, geography, and James Valone, philosophy. From its earliest inception the members of the Society debated a number of issues, among which were  whether to include the words "science" or "humanities" in the title with one counter-proposal being the name "Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences and Humanities"; how to include scholars with interests in ethnomethodology, critical theory, hermeneutics, post-structuralism and other streams of thought that have a broad relationship to phenomenology; and whether representation on the Executive Committee should in some way be balanced with respect to disciplinary affiliation (see the discussion in Phenomenology and Social Science Newsletter, 1981, vol. 9, no. 4).

At the first meeting in 1981 papers and presentations were made by Helmut Wagner, sociology, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; James Valone, philosophy, Bellarmine College; Michael Weinstein, political science, Purdue University, Dieter Misgeld, history and philosophy of education, University of Toronto; Lester Embree, philosophy, Duquesne University; Richard Lanigan, communication, Southern Illinois University; Paul Richer, psychology, Duquesne University; James Heap, education, University of Toronto; David Seamon, architecture and geography, University of Oklahoma; Robert Mugerauer, philosophy, St. Edwards University; Joseph Grange, philosophy, University of Southern Maine; Anne Buttimer, geography, Clark University, and Bernd Jager, psychology, Sonoma State College.

This array of scholars from different disciplines is an indication of the original aims of the organization, i.e., to include a broad array of phenomenologically- and humanistically-oriented scholars. The Society has met annually in the fall in conjunction with the SPEP, organized joint sessions, and promoted common interests.

Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences, is an international quarterly journal published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in the Netherlands. Now beyond its 30th year of publication, Human Studies became the official journal of SPHS and offers a reduced subscription rate to all members.

For a number of years, a Newsletter of views and reviews was sponsored which was edited at various times by D. Laurence Wieder, Ken Colburn, James Valone, Valerie Malhotra Benz, and Ken Liberman.

The Society co-sponsors and hosts the Alfred Schutz Memorial Lecture which is presented at its annual meeting and subsequently published in Human Studies. Lecturers have been:

•    1995 - Maurice Natanson, Philsophy, Yale University
•    1996 - Ilja Srubar, Sociology, Erlangen University
•    1997 - Richard Zaner, Philosophy, Vanderbilt University
•    1998 - Thomas Luckmann, Sociology, Konstanz University
•    1999 - Fred Kersten, Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
•    2000 - George Psathas, Sociology, Boston University
•    2001 - Lester Embree, Philosophy, Florida Atlantic University
•    2002 - Michael Barber, Philosophy, Saint Louis University
•    2003 - Kurt Wolff, Sociology, Brandeis University (posthumous)
•    2004 - Harold Garfinkel, Sociology, UCLA (unable to attend -- paper presented by Ken Liberman and Larry Wieder)
•    2005 - Rosemary Rizo-Patron, Philosophy, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru
•    2006 - Hisashi Nasu, Sociology, Waseda University, Japan
•    2007 - Ion Copoeru, Philosophy, Universitatea Babes-Bolyai (Cluj-Napoca)
•    2008 - Mary F. Rogers, Sociology & Women's Studies, University of West Florida
•    2009 - Tom Eberle, Sociology, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

The Society's affairs are directed and organized by two Co-Chairs, two Program Co-Chairs, a Treasurer and a Secretary and four elected members of an executive board who serve two-year terms.