Executive Committee 2018-2022/23
In 1919, the text of Max Weber’s famous lecture Science as a Vocation was published. A century later, this compelling document on the relationship between academia as a profession and politics and ethics is still timely for our debate. When participating in many conferences held by national and regional associations, I see extraordinary critical engagements of the sociological communities with their societies, looking for emancipatory alternatives to neoliberalism, authoritarianism, and populism - what Erik Olin Wright called ‘real utopias.’ So far, some have been engaged in the classical Maoist thought which establishes a strong hierarchy between a ‘principal’ contradiction and a ‘secondary’ one, generating a sort of periodization determining the nature of struggle: struggle against imperialism, struggle against capitalism, or struggle against dictatorship. Together with Boaventura de Sousa Santos, I think it is time to move this dichotomy into a more creative and dynamic one: some issues are important while other ones are urgent, depending on the context. What today is urgent for a city is only important in a different place. Such a dynamic thought would liberate our sociology from this grand periodization that blinds us to everyday societal problems, and engage it with a variety of social movements.
I am glad to live in Lebanon in this revolutionary moment. There is here a heated debate between two camps. The first one believes that the current youth uprising, calling for toppling the sectarian political regime and replacing the corrupted politicians is simply a secondary contradiction that would harm the principal contradiction, that is, the current struggle against imperialism in the region. The second camp, which I belong to, thinks that the uprising claims are urgent while the ‘resistance’ is simply important. I found similar debates in Latin America. The remarkable Congress of the Latin American Sociological Association (ALAS) held this month in Lima, Peru, and attended by 3,300 participants was a good example of such a debate, thinking specifically about Venezuela and Bolivia. This would not have been possible without the great work of Ana Rivoir, Jaime Ríos, and the whole executive committee of ALAS. Talking about ALAS congress, I am so grateful that on the occasion of this event, both Boaventura de Sousa Santos and myself received an Honorary Doctorate from the National University of San Marcos, the first and leading university in Lima, established in 1551.
ISA Presidential Project
As I mentioned in my previous letter, my Presidential Project includes a better connection between national associations, Research Committees, and publications within the ISA, mainly targeting the regions that are less represented in ISA activities.
In this regard, I am glad to announce the signing of an agreement between the ISA and both the Latin American Sociological Association and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) that will foster further collaboration in different domains. Needless to say, this kind of collaborative effort is not only aimed at the Latin American region, as we will have similar ones in other regions.
In the meantime, the ISA has been active in conducting Academic Writing Workshops (AWW) in different parts of the world (Slovenia, Brazil, China, Peru, and Ghana), and forthcoming workshops are planned in other regions. Yet I would like to highlight the extraordinary AWW and methodology workshop conducted by Jim Spickard, Anna Halafoff, Afe Adogame, and Michael Okyerefo for early-career African sociologists, on the occasion of the mid-term conference of the Research Committee on Sociology of Religion (RC22) in Accra, Ghana on the theme Rethinking Religion in the Public Sphere in 21st Century Global South. I hope other RCs will do the same as a side event at their conferences. In addition, a mentorship process has been set up to help early-career authors to bring their papers up to international journals’ standards.
2020 ISA IV Forum of Sociology in Porto Alegre, Brazil
Geoffrey Pleyers, ISA Vice-President for Research and Forum President, and Hermilio Santos, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee, as well as ISA Research Committees, Working and Thematic Groups, have done a great work together in preparing the ISA IV Forum of Sociology to be held in Porto Alegre next July. Thanks to their efforts, 9.602 abstracts were received, which constitutes a real success. The “lucky” presenters, whose abstracts were accepted, should not miss the early registration deadline of March 19, 2020, available at a discount rate. Being with Geoffrey Pleyers in Lima for a week, I witnessed how much efforts he has to deploy in order to deal with the many requests from RCs and ISA participants concerning the Forum.
I strongly encourage you to attend the Forum as exciting presentations are expected from speakers in Plenary, Semi-Plenary and Common Sessions, Professional Development Sessions on Publications, Teaching Sociology Sessions, and in the “Conversation with Senior Sociologists: Making Connections, Bridging Generations” roundtable session. The confirmed speakers of the opening and closing plenaries are Boaventura de Sousa Santos (University of Coimbra), Rita Segato (University of Brasilia), Manuel Castells (University of Barcelona), Michael Burawoy (UC Berkeley), Ashish Kothari (India), and Maristella Svampa (CONICET, Argentina). We will have special sessions to pay tribute to Immanuel Wallerstein, Erik Olin Wright, and Marielle Franco.
Publications are one of the cornerstones of ISA activities and the work of our editors is more than remarkable. Yet I am interested today in highlighting ISA’s efforts to make knowledge produced in the Global South available to everyone. In this process, the ISA and SAGE have recently published Fernanda Beigel’s edited book Key Texts for Latin American Sociology within the “SAGE Studies in International Sociology” series. A special mention goes to the great work of Chaime Marcuello, editor of SSIS books and of former editor Sujata Patel for their collective effort in putting this volume together. This is the first book of a series of key texts from different regions which will bring together texts from leading sociologists from a region and make them available in English. I hope other proposals for such books will be received.
Much has been accomplished by the ISA thanks to all the hard work and diverse contributions of our members. I also take this opportunity to thank the four VPs, ISA EC members, ISA Executive Secretary Izabela Barlinska, and the ISA Secretariat for their work and dedication to the organization.
As 2019 draws to a close, I wish you all a joyful holiday season and another spectacular year to come.
President, International Sociological Association
Prof. of Sociology, American University of Beirut