Executive Committee 2018-2022/23

September 2019

President’s Perspective


Since my last presidential letter, many events have troubled our sociological community. Three prominent sociologists have passed away: Immanuel Wallerstein, Aníbal Quijano (Peruvian sociologist) and Erik Olin Wright (American sociologist). The ISA is particularly indebted to Wallerstein, who was its president between 1994 and 1998. He is the author of the much celebrated world systems theory, that re-centered sociology around comparative history, political economy, and theories of capitalism, laying the foundation for anticolonial and postcolonial sociology. His immense organizational contribution was to “open up” the ISA by establishing a direct contact with members, by starting a tradition of presidential letters to members, and by organizing regional conferences that cultivated new generations of sociologists who would later become leaders of their national sociologies as well as of the ISA.

He believed in a terminal crisis of capitalism, yet he left us long before a better world could be  made possible. The global rise of populism, authoritarianism, xenophobia, and racism makes our task as sociologists more crucial than ever. When in 2016 I wrote the first version of my article about the new directions for a global sociology, emphasizing an anti-authoritarian approach in understanding our societies and modernities, I was thinking about the protracted authoritarian Arab regimes but since then I see authoritarianism is on the march worldwide, eroding democracy from within and giving birth to dictators and ‘strong man’ figures (Putin in Russia, Sisi in Egypt, Orban in Hungary, etc.). This dual resurgence of popularism and authoritarianism is helped by what Marta Kotwas and Jan Kubik called the “gradual symbolic thickening” of public culture through the intensification of radical religious and nationalist discourses. Over the last few months the ISA Human Rights Committee has been quite busy issuing three statements. First, endorsing Brazilian Society of Sociology press release regarding the teaching of philosophy and social sciences in Brazilian federal universities (April 2019), second, endorsing SciencePo (Paris) statement regarding Professor Fariba Adelkhah’s arrest in Iran (August 2019), and finally in support of education in humanities in Bulgaria (August 2019).

Yet the role of sociologists is not only to understand these cataclysmic changes but also to engage (physically and critically) with the formidable social movements we are witnessing today in different parts of the world (Sudan, Algeria, France, Hong Kong, etc.) and with a resurgent civil society, including the rise of the Greens across Europe.

August was a particularly busy month for me, as I received several invitations to speak at conferences of national and regional associations and learnt a lot about the different national traditions of practicing sociology. I would like to highlight particularly how the Polish Sociological Association has made the 17th Polish Sociological Congress (held on September 11-14, 2019) a glocal platform, not only fostering exchange between different generations of Polish sociologists but also opening it to international participants. For each time slot, at least one of the parallel sessions was in English. 1100 people attended this congress.

ISA Presidential Project

As I mentioned in my previous letter, my Presidential Project includes a better connection among national associations, Research Committees and publications within the ISA, targeting mainly the regions that are less representated in various ISA activities. Those regions can be defined as the Global South but also beyond. There are three related components: connecting national associations’ activities and conferences with ISA publications (institutionalizing publications’ project and extending it); second, maintaining the Global Mapping of Sociologists; and finally, understanding the trajectory of the ISA through its World Congresses of Sociology (the ISA will celebrate in 2022 its 20th World Congress of Sociology). In more details:

  • So far, the ISA has been active in conducting Academic Writing Workshops (AWW) in different parts of the world (Lebanon, Brazil, Spain, Sri Lanka) and forthcoming workshops are planned in Peru, Slovenia, Ghana, and Oman. I would like to thank Eloísa Martín, Vice-President for Publications, as well as ISA journals’ editors Karim Murji, Sarah Neal, and Marta Soler for the great efforts they are making. Just to give you an example of the relevance of these AWW, the one I conducted in Sri Lanka in early September was attended by 52 early-career sociologists; and before I left Colombo, I got two papers from one faculty and one PhD candidate whom I will mentor in order to make their papers ready for submission to an international journal. Events organized by associations (general assembly, national and regional conferences) are an excellent opportunity for conveners to send me the best two or three papers submitted to their events. The ISA has created an appropriate mechanism to select high-quality papers for publication and/or offers to work with promising early-career authors to bring their papers up to international journals’ standards. For manuscripts not written in English, the ISA may translate some of them after due referee process. Please contact us about your events or request a writing workshop for your early-career sociologists. We consider organizing some 30 Writing Workshops over the next three years.
  • I encourage all ISA individual members as well as members of national sociological associations to introduce their profile in ISA’s Global Mapping of Sociologists (GMS). Currently this database includes 82,260 entries (25,053 abstracts, 28,635 persons, 5,107 sessions, 3,519 publications). I think more campaigning efforts should be carried out to incorporate more profiles and projects from sociologists. This database is extremely instrumental for any search of the knowledge produced within the ISA. It contains abstracts and keywords of many of the ISA World Congresses and Forums of Sociology, as well as of articles published in the ISA journals, International Sociology and Current Sociology. The process of adding in abstracts of all previous Congresses and Forums is ongoing.
  • Gisèle Sapiro, Research director at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and Professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris), will be studying the trajectory of the ISA through its nineteen World Congresses of Sociology organized since its foundation. This will be done through analyzing program books and looking at three RCs (their changing forms and contents in terms of topics, theories and methodologies, and resulting publications). Please contact her if you have any relevant information for this assignment. 
2020 ISA IV Forum of Sociology, 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 have done a great work together in preparing the ISA IV Forum of Sociology to be held in Porto Alegre. I would like to thank them for their terrific work and look forward to seeing you all in July 2020. Don’t miss the September 30, 2019 deadline for abstract submission.

National Sociological Associations

The National Associations Liaison Committee (NALC) allocated its grants for 2019 to various national sociological associations for their regional conferences and website development. The next deadline for submitting applications for grants is January 30, 2020.
I am glad to announce that the next Conference of the Council of National Associations will be held in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, in 2021; each national sociological association that is a member of the ISA is invited to be represented by one delegate. I would like to thank Borut Roncevic for offering to host this very important conference.

ISA Laboratory for PhD Students in Sociology

We were so glad to receive 54 applications for the XVI ISA International Laboratory for PhD Students in Sociology organized on the theme “Mobilities and Social Inequalities in a Globalized World.” The Lab was held on September 9-13, 2019 in Santiago de Compostela and A Coruña, Spain with eleven selected PhD students from various countries. I would like to thank the Spanish Sociological Federation (FES) and Laura Oso for her great effort in organizing this Lab. Both Filomin Gutierrez and Mounir Saidani kindly joined Laura as faculty members, and Sarah Neal did an AWW for the PhD students and young local scholars. The next PhD Lab will be in held September 2020 in Tunisia.

Future ISA conferences

We look forward to receiving bids from the national sociological associations to host the forthcoming ISA V Forum of Sociology (2024) and XXI World Congress of Sociology (2026). December 1, 2020 is the deadline for submitting bids. For more information please see https://www.isa-sociology.org/en/conferences/call-for-bids.

And finally

Much has been accomplished by the ISA thanks to all the hard work of our members through their diverse contributions. I truly appreciate all the emails and support that I receive from our membership and the broader sociological community. I also take this opportunity to thank my four VPs, ISA Executive Secretary Izabela Barlinska, and the ISA Secretariat for their work and dedication to the organization.

I would also like to congratulate the editor of International Sociology Marta Soler who was elected President of the European Sociological Association at the ESA conference in Manchester in August 2019. This will foster more connectivity between the ISA and the ESA.


Sari Hanafi
President, International Sociological Association
Prof. of Sociology, American University of Beirut