I was honored to be elected the President of the International Sociological Association during its XIX ISA World Congress in July 2018 in Toronto. I met many of you there, but I would like to address all members of the ISA from time to time to keep everyone up to date as to what is going on in our ISA.
New direction for a Global Sociology
We live in a turbulent world of social inequality, violence and injustice. Cases of severe poverty are coupled with recurring outbursts of state repression, conflict and displacement, states of military occupation and spaces of exception, as well as global and local military insurgencies and resistance. Despite their substantial divergences, along a continuum, they exhibit different points along the passage from the rule of law to the “law of rules”. Our world is going through a period of turmoil, full of Trumps and mini-Trumps, yet I believe in the potential of our discipline, sociology, to address many of the above critical issues.
The program that I introduced in my speech as a candidate for this position highlights a three-point agenda: first, because I am wary (very wary indeed) of antagonistic binary categories such as tradition/modernity, East/West, and universalism/contextualism, I propose various sociologies to always be in dialogue. Second, it is very important that some concepts in sociology claim universality, such as human rights, but I see their universality as possible only through an overlapping cross-cultural consensus, and not by universalizing values coming from the Euroamerican context. For that, we need to construct Sociological Theory Beyond the Canon, in Syed Farid Alatas and Vineeta Sinha's words. However, the postcolonial approach is not sufficient to account for problems of knowledge production, and should be supplemented by what I call a post-authoritarian approach, i.e. considering not only the impact of colonialism, but also the impact of local authoritarianism (whether it be brutalizing or neoliberal) on knowledge production. Third, secularization theory is in real crisis, and cannot account for the transformation of citizens’ relationships with religion. While secularization is still a very important pathway toward democracy and modernity, this process needs to be problematized on a post-secular basis in order to free it from some of its excesses and pathologies. Our task as sociologists is to work on this (for more details about this program see http://globaldialogue.isa-sociology.org/global-sociology-toward-new-directions/)
Call for more active participation
I am so lucky to have a wonderful elected team in ISA: Vice-President of Research Geoffrey Pleyers (Belgium), Vice-President of National Associations Filomin Gutierrez (Philippines), Vice-President of Publications, Eloísa Martín (UAE and Brazil), Vice-President of Finance and Membership Sawako Shirahase (Japan) and an Executive Committee composed of 16 members from all over the globe. Needless to say, we heavily rely on the hard work of our earnest Executive Secretary Izabela Barlinska and her team.
We all work across the same lines to make our Association more global through fostering more active participation from all corners of the world. We look forward to your participation in the forthcoming 16th ISA Laboratory for PhD Students in Santiago de Compostela (Spain, 2019), 4th ISA Forum of Sociology in Porto Alegre (Brazil, 2020), 5th ISA Conference of the Council of National Associations in 2021 (venue tbc), and the 20th ISA World Congress in Melbourne (Australia, 2022). We also encourage you to submit your research to ISA publications: to journals Current Sociology, International Sociology, and International Sociology Reviews as well as to ISA Digital Publications (Global Dialogue which is translated into 17 languages, eSymposium and Sociopedia) and ISA books collection, Sage Studies in International Sociology. In order to be more inclusive, ISA allows the possibility of submitting your manuscript in languages other than English but this will be in coordination with the concerned editor.
Participation in the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology in Toronto
Our XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology was true success, with the participation of 5,805 sociologists. We are proud to announce that 58% from them are female and 21% are students. However, the geographical distribution shows a significantly skewed representation of Northern countries (defined as Europe, North America and Australia), with 71% of the total participation (for more details see statistics). We will seek to redress this disparity in forthcoming ISA events. I regret that many scholars from the Global South (especially from the Middle East) were unable to join the congress due to visa problems. We will be ensuring that, for future ISA events, the local committee will be tackling these issues head on.
Finally, vacations vary across cultures and societies; yet let me wish you a wonderful Holiday Season and a happy and prosperous 2019.
Prof. of Sociology, American University of Beirut
President, International Sociological Association