Executive Committee 2014-2018

February 2016

Greetings! Once again I am writing to update you since my last letter. As always, I want to keep our channels of communication open and there is much to share on what we have been doing in the ISA.

The preparations for the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology in Vienna, Austria (July 10-14, 2016) with its theme of “Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World” is moving along very well. I am pleased to report that we received 7,700 abstracts and anticipate over 1000 sessions organized by the Research Committees, Working Groups and Thematic Groups program coordinators and session organizers. Markus Schulz, ISA Vice President for Research and President of the Forum, is organizing the Opening and Closing Plenary sessions, as well as coordinating the Common Sessions with an exciting slate of speakers. Rudolf Richter, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee, together with Brigitte Aulenbacher (Vice Chair LOC) and Ida Seljeskog (LOC Coordinator) and the LOC team have been steadfastly preparing in Vienna for the arrival of thousands of Forum participants as well as the Opening ceremony and LOC Plenaries. It goes without saying that organizing a Forum is unimaginable without the creative and conscientious coordination of Izabela Barlinska, ISA Executive Secretary, and of the ISA Secretariat. So we have much to look forward to at the 3rd ISA Forum in Vienna. Below is a reminder on some important information:

  1. Forum preliminary program is already available on the ISA Forum website.
  2. Registration is open and registration deadline for presenters is April 5, 2016.
  3. A selection of hotels has been reserved by the LOC at a special rate for Congress participants.
  4. There is a Star-Alliance travel discount for registered Forum participants.

There is much more that has been happening at the ISA, besides the Forum.  Vineeta Sinha, Vice-President Publications, initiated a search for a new editor for Current Sociology Monographs and Sage Studies in International Sociology Books which was successfully edited by Sujata Patel until December 31st 2015. I thank Sujata for her important contribution to the ISA scholarly community as Editor. It is also worth mentioning here that in July 2015, VP Vineeta Sinha successfully organized the XIIIth ISA International Laboratory for PhD Students in Singapore co-sponsored by the ISA, the Department of Sociology and the South Asian Studies Programme at National University of Singapore. Benjamín Tejerina, Vice President for Finance and Membership, has been working on ways to increase membership. He has been closely involved in the contract negotiations for the 3rd ISA Forum in Vienna and the World Congress of Sociology to be held in Toronto in 2018. Vice-President, National Associations, Sari Hanafi, has been involved in the preparation for 4th conference of the ISA Council of National Associations to be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan in May 2017.

The ISA Executive Committee (EC) has been an important part of the decision making. The EC members serve on various committees and will report on their activities at the forthcoming annual ISA executive meeting organized by EC member Chin-Chun Yi and hosted by Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, in April 2016. I also want to share with you that, after careful deliberation, the ISA Executive Committee recently put forth a strong statement condemning the violation of human rights of academics (including sociologists) and academic freedom in Turkey.

Finally, let me share with you that I continue to be committed to representing and promoting the goals of ISA.  Between June and December 2015, I had the opportunity to speak at conferences in various countries. I got to listen to sociologists with diverse sociological perspectives speak on global issues and local contexts. In June, I participated in the 22nd Annual Congress of the South African Sociological Association (SASA) with its theme of “Contours of Violence” hosted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. Invited by Tina Uys, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee and SASA President Irma du Plessis, this incredibly well organized conference addressed some thought-provoking topics and covered many theoretical issues around the framing and methodologies in the study of violence. Ongoing concerns in the South African context were raised and debated by scholars, activists and students. (see brief report by Tina Uys). I also had the opportunity to participate in an excellent doctoral workshop organized by Tapiwa Chagonda, Sociology Department, University of Johannesburg. Together with Tina Uys, we met UNESCO officials to initiate ways to collaborate and to support the work of African sociologists.

In July, I had the pleasure of being invited by the President of the Brazilian Sociological Society (SBS) Soraya Vargas Côrtes, and José Vicente Tavares dos Santos, President of the Brazilian Congress of Sociology to speak at the Congress in Porto Alegre that was held at the campus of Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. This incredibly well organized and well attended Congress with its theme, ‘Sociology Facing Transnational Dialogues had sociologists dialoguing and debating on a spectrum of issues.  I was also impressed at the successful advocacy by SBS to include sociology as a mandatory subject in the basic education curriculum (brief report by Soraya Vargas Côrtes). In November, I attended the ALAS Congress in Costa Rica with its theme of “Pueblos en movimiento: un nuevo diálogo en las ciencias sociales" at the invitation of Nora Garita, President of the Organizing Committee, ALAS Congress 2015. Once again, this was a very well-planned Congress with a range of sessions and renowned speakers. The President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, spoke at the opening ceremony.  At this Congress, ALAS also put forth an important Declaration that has been posted on the ISA Social Justice and Democratization website.

In December 2015, I was invited by Felipe Rivera Sanchez, Director of the School of Sociology, Central University of Chile, to discuss the public role of sociology. Felipe Rivera, who coordinated this visit, played a pivotal role in ensuring it success as did the local organizers. I visited Universidad Católica del Maule which will hold a Pre-ALAS Congress in 2016 and also went to Universidad Central de Chile, Serena (report by Felipe Rivera, in Spanish  and in English). I must acknowledge that this was a memorable visit to all these places in Chile where I got to meet and discuss with so many sociologists, students, state and non-state actors in small and large settings. It was particularly refreshing to see sociologists work in teams, teaching and engaging with local communities, institutions and the broader public on key issues including migration, equality, social justice and sustainability.

Visiting and conferring with sociologists, activists and the broader social science communities in South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica and Chile reinforced my belief that we need critical analysis but also action and intervention, including working with non-governmental agencies in order to develop frameworks, policies and practices for social change. We consistently need sociological analysis and intervention at the local, national and global levels. There is so much that we can learn from sociologists around the world, as we connect the local and global, for example, in addressing increasing xenophobia in various countries, inequality, and a spectrum of social injustices. Therefore, it is of vital importance that through the ISA we find more ways to better connect sociologists across the world to further develop and share our sociological frames and tools to build a better and more just world.

As always, a special thanks to many of you who write to me, and a thank you to all our membership for your part in ensuring a strong ISA and Sociology.

Margaret Abraham
President, International Sociological Association

Professor of Sociology, Hofstra University
202F Davison Hall, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA