The year 2022 was particularly violent and challenging for most regions in the world. To cite a few, I think of Russia’s war in Ukraine which has driven 7 million people to seek refuge across Europe; deadly floodings in Pakistan and wildfires in the USA induced by climate change; the intensification of the settler colonial Israeli project in the Occupied Palestinian territories; wars in Yemen and Syria. At the same time we have seen more and more social movements and protests against all sorts of injustice: widespread protests across many cities in Iran against the imposition of the veil in the street, and in other countries against the vertiginous rise of populism and authoritarianism.
When we chose the theme for the next ISA World Congress, Resurgent Authoritarianism: Sociology of New Entanglements of Religions, Politics, and Economies, authoritarianism was not as spread as it is now, including in the Global North. Its growth is facilitated by the gradual symbolic thickening of public culture through combinations of extreme nationalist and religious fervor, particularly when the political liberal project is replaced by a national conservative project and the public reason becomes incapable of dealing neither with a unified conception of justice nor with different conceptions of the good in society. With more hierarchical polarization in society, we live in a time when reasonable public debate is often impossible. In this context, the International Sociological Association’s mission and activities are particularly important. Let me highlight some of them.
XX ISA World Congress of Sociology in Melbourne, 2023
We will finally meet in person. The date of this XX ISA World Congress of Sociology was changed after considering many questions: Should it be online, hybrid or in-person? Who cannot make it? Who is still fearful of coming too close to others? This will be a historical moment as a major in-person event, after almost three years of online meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We envisaged different scenarios, but the outcome is for now most encouraging, with 7,126 submitted abstracts. 66% plan to present in person and 34% virtually. The program coordinators did a great job assessing the submissions, accepting 6,408 abstracts from 124 countries. In comparison with the previous Congress (in Toronto, 2018), the number of accepted abstracts has increased by 19%. We invite all those who were accepted to register before March 22, 2023, the deadline for presenters’ registration. Let me remind you that in addition to the regular Research Committee/Working Group/Thematic Group (RC/WG/TG) grants to attend the congress, the ISA has a Solidarity Fund targeting student membership: Each RC/WG/TG can allocate ISA membership grants for up to 3 students from category A countries and up to 5 students from category B and C countries.
The Congress program has been the subject of many meetings of the Program Committee. Eight plenaries will deal with four themes: secularism from the perspective of postsecularity or multiple secularities ; authoritarianism, particularly in its brutalizing version and its effects on knowledge and post-factuality; populism and its different local forms of a global phenomenon and an invitation for an intersectional approach to understanding the construction of the “people”; and neoliberalism, that generates so many inequalities, jeopardizing both individual and collective rights to life. But let me highlight here the two presidential panels.
The two presidential panels are conceived with a particular interest in connecting sociology to moral and political philosophy. In the first one, entitled “Liberalism, the Other and Religion” two philosophers and two sociologists debate this theme. French philosopher Cécile Laborde defends minimal secularism while Palestinian philosopher Azmi Bishara argues that comprehensive liberalism can be promoted if its basic values, like civil liberties and individual autonomy are reproducible in the context of the prevailing culture. For Brazilian-Belgian sociologist Frederic Vandenberghe the sociological critiques of social injustices and social pathologies basically adhere to the repertoire of “liberal communitarianism.” Sometimes it veers more towards the communitarian pole of identity and authenticity, and sometimes towards the liberal pole of autonomy and justice. Finally, for Australian sociologist Anna Halafoff the role of religion is in both enabling and resisting this anti-cosmopolitan terror manifested in the rise of religious nationalism.
The second panel is about “Building a Just Post-COVID-19 World.” The surreal atmosphere of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines in trust among human beings, among countries, between citizens and governments, and is pushing us to raise big questions about ourselves, our social relationships, and life more generally. This crisis moment would be an occasion to actively engage in addressing this new reality and the attendant rampant uncertainty. While this global crisis may have prompted fresh strategies to reinforce exploitation, dispossession, and neoliberal capitalism, and increased the reach of our greed and selfishness, it has also given us an opportunity to explore and provide new ways of understanding and reclaiming our social justice and humanity. Didier Fassin points to the unlearned lessons of the pandemic focusing on public health and social inequalities. For him, the health crisis revealed the flaws of public health in most countries and the depth of social inequalities within and between countries. Eva Illouz is interested in fear as the anti-democratic emotion that post-COVID time reveals. Afe Adogame, with his Ghanian sensitivity, unfolds the nexus between religion, science, and pandemics that plays out in myriad ways. While science challenges the legitimacy and potency of religion in offering protection, healing, security, and hope, religion in turn confronts the efficacity and authority of science as a panacea. Finally, in the face of the impact of COVID-19, Li Peilin argues that modern world-systems theory, the Cold War theory and clash of civilizations theory are incapable of understanding regional conflicts and the threat of world economic recession; he thus calls for a post-western sociology, a more inclusive sociology to contribute to the establishment of a world order of peace.
RC/WG/TGs selected papers for so many interesting panels, including Integrative Sessions and Sessions by National, Regional, Linguistic and Thematic Associations, Ad Hoc Sessions, and professional development sessions. I would like to thank the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) headed by Dan Woodman and all members of the Program Committee and Program Coordinators for the great work they have been doing. We ended up by a wonderful program, with most speakers planning to attend in-person. Needless to say, Melbourne is an amazing place to meet: it’s a vibrant and friendly city, with public art, many parks and great food and coffee and some affordable accommodation options. We hope to see you all there in late June 2023!
Global Dialogue Magazine
Following Michael Burawoy’s editorship, and that of Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre, I would like now to welcome the new editor of Global Dialogue Breno Bringel, a most renowned Brazilian political sociologist. We wish him and his assistant editors Carolina Vestena and Vitória Gonzalez Rodriguez all the best in their editorial work. Founded in 2010 and now translated into more than 15 languages, ISA magazine Global Dialogue has been instrumental in connecting sociologists all over the world. I would like to thank Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre as well as their assistants for consolidating it as a vibrant publication.
XVII ISA International Laboratory for PhD Students
The 2022 Laboratory for PhD Students in Sociology around the theme Precarization and Resistance: Environment, Everyday Life and Citizenship was organized jointly by the ISA, the Arab Centre for Research and Political Studies, the Centre for Economic and Social Researches and Studies, and the Research in Enlightenment, Modernity and Cultural Diversity Lab, Tunis El Manar University. It took place in Tunis, Tunisia, September 5-11, 2022. This Lab was held successfully despite Tunisia’s current difficult economic and political situation. The quality of this Lab was confirmed by the students’ own evaluation. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the Lab, particularly Mounir Saidani, member of the ISA Executive Committee and head of the Local Organizing Committee of the Lab, and Executive Committee members Bandana Purkayastha and Geoffrey Pleyers.
I am glad to inform you that our support to early-career sociologists continues. In Melbourne, a pre-congress seminar will be organized for the winners and finalists of the ISA Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists, which will gather 15 junior sociologists from 14 countries.
5th ISA Council of National Associations Conference
On the theme Social Transformations and Sociology: Dispossessions and Empowerment, the Council of National Associations conference took place in Nova Gorica, Slovenia on November 21-24, 2022 with the participation of over 60 delegates from national associations and collective members of the ISA. The conference, organized on the invitation of the Slovenian Social Sciences Association was an academically and socially vibrant event thanks to Filomin Gutierrez, ISA Vice-President for National Associations, and Borut Roncevic, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) and to the LOC particularly warm hospitality.
Nominations of candidates for the election of the ISA Executive Committee 2023-2027
The World Congress is the occasion for electing the ISA President, 4 Vice-Presidents, 8 representatives of the Council of National Associations and 8 representatives of the Research Council, who will constitute the next Executive Committee. Please send your nominations to email@example.com by January 31, 2023. For more details and nomination forms see https://www.isa-sociology.org/en/about-isa/election-of-the-isa-executive-committee.
In our last Executive Committee meetings we took many important decisions:
• The 2025 ISA Forum of Sociology will be in-person. A call for bids was issued.
• The collective membership of the Russian Sociological Association will be suspended until the end of the war on Ukraine.
• The ISA has endorsed many statements concerning human rights violations: the Iran protests, in support of the public statement issued by the Iranian Sociological Association; the call to action of Birzeit University to reject Israeli measures against academic freedom; ISA statement on the Russian military offensive happening in Ukraine; ISA endorsement of the code of conduct for United Nations interactions with civil society organizations.
• ISA signed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) recognizing the need to improve the ways in which researchers and the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. The idea to write the declaration was developed in 2012 at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco. It has become a worldwide initiative covering all scholarly disciplines and all key stakeholders including funders, publishers, professional societies, institutions, and researchers. We encourage all individuals and organizations who are interested in developing and promoting best practice in the assessment of researchers and scholarly research to sign DORA.
Much of what is accomplished by the ISA is the result of all the hard work and diverse contributions of our members. I also take this opportunity to thank all Executive Committee members, our four Vice-Presidents, Filomin Gutierrez, Eloísa Martín, Geoffrey Pleyers, and Sawako Shirahase, as well as ISA Executive Committee members, ISA editors, ISA Executive Secretary Izabela Barlinska, Lola Busuttil and Juan Lejárraga for their work and dedication to the Association. I would like as well to welcome Cecilia Delgado-Molina, our Social Media Manager and forthcoming ISA Executive Secretary (starting from August 2023). Cecilia holds a PhD summa cum laude in Sociology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and completed research stays in Argentina, Germany, and the United States. She held a postdoctoral position at the Autonomous University of Barcelona Research Group in the Sociology of Religion (ISOR), in collaboration with the University of Birmingham. She has experience in university-community partnerships, public funding, financial administration, and staff management. Additionally, she has expertise in web design, digital communication, and social media networking. She is a member of the ISA since 2012 and serves as the RC22 (Sociology of Religion) interim secretary, for which she recently redesigned the website and newsletter.
Finally I wish you all the best for the holiday season and for a new year which I hope will bring better news for the world and not only for the human...