Executive Committee 2014-2018

February 2017


Let me first begin by wishing you my best for 2017. I sincerely hope the international community of sociologists can come together to make 2017 better for all. 2016 was indeed a year of cataclysmic change that has left us more uncertain than ever about the shape of things to come in this polarized post truth world.  Today existing systems are in turmoil, institutions are being dismantled without any clear idea of what needs to be put in their place, and democracy itself is in crisis. The resentment at the growing inequalities of globalization has turned into a backlash against immigrants, multiculturalism, secularism, struggles for gender and intersectional justice. We are witnessing increasing closing of borders, building of walls, and a surge in overt othering and exclusion. But we are also witnessing individuals, informal groups and organizations at the local, national and global levels mobilizing to address injustices, to speak and share in the dignity and wellbeing of all.

A case at point is US President Donald Trump’s recent Executive Order proposing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. This ban is discriminatory, stigmatizing communities and people, and exacerbating forms of social exclusion of specific groups. Further, the ban adversely impacts knowledge production, prevents the free flow of academic exchanges and limits participation of sociologists in national and international conferences. Civil society members, individual academics, professional associations and communities nationally and internationally are responding by voicing their concern, opposing the ban, bringing legal challenges and supporting those affected.

There is a critical need for us individually, as sociologists, and collectively, as an association, to listen and understand the voice and actions of multiple publics across the world; not to dismiss but to discuss, to actively engage in dialogue and debate; to examine and address the issues of inequality and injustices that are at the root of the ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and extreme right-wing thinking on the rise. We need to reflect, respond and recognize our responsibility as sociologists to address what is happening on the ground in these grim times and strive to address injustices. I am writing this at the outset because, despite the multiple challenges we currently confront, I continue to believe in reason and I’m confident that sociologists can play a key role in the formidable task of reviving hope and crafting a better future in an inclusive and just world.

It is with such hope that I move on to share with you what is going on at the ISA since my last letter to you.  

3rd ISA Forum in Vienna, Austria from July 10-14, 2016

We had very successful 3rd ISA Forum in Vienna, Austria from July 10-14, 2016 with 4231 registrants. The Forum with its theme, The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World was particularly timely, given the current state of our world and the challenges, competing assumptions, aspirations about futures by individuals, communities, institutions, states, and movements.  My thanks to all of you who have contributed to the success of ISA Forum.  The strength of this Forum owes much to the stellar role played by the participating ISA Research Committees, Thematic and Working Groups in developing a well-crafted scientific program. For the opening and closing plenary sessions our thanks to ISA Vice-President Research and Forum President, Markus Schulz, and to the ISA Research Coordinating Committee and the Local Organizing Committee for the plenaries that they organized. My special thanks to Rudolf Richter, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), together with Brigitte Aulenbacher, Vice Chair of the LOC, Ida Seljeskog, LOC Coordinator, and the members of the LOC for their meticulous planning and preparation that contributed much to the success of this Forum. As always, the ISA Secretariat team in Madrid led by ISA Executive Secretary, Izabela Barlinska, was crucial in all stages of preparation. We thank Rector Heinz W. Engl and the University of Vienna for providing such a wonderful venue and for supporting this major sociological event.

Fourth ISA Conference of the Council of National Associations

We had to change the venue of the Fourth ISA Conference of the Council of National Associations (CAN) from Kazakhstan to another country. The ISA Executive Committee unanimously decided to change the location of the conference in response to the Executive Committee of the Local Organizing Committee of this conference imposing specific changes in the draft program that were unacceptable to the ISA, including changes in some titles, content and presentations as a condition for going forward with the conference.

Such conditions that restrict academic freedom are against the principles and mission of the ISA that aims “to represent sociologists everywhere, regardless of their school of thought, scientific approaches or ideological opinion, and to advance sociological knowledge throughout the world.” In these challenging and difficult times, it is even more important for the International Sociological Association not to succumb to censorship and or stifle knowledge production and engagement. We steadfastly uphold the principles of academic freedom that enables us to openly debate and dialogue on key concepts, methods, frameworks and practices of our discipline and the integrity of our association and its membership.  My thanks to Sari Hanafi, ISA VP National Association, for his work in preparing the program and I appreciate him, the  ISA Secretariat, NALC, ISA EC, all working together to resolve the problem.  We are also grateful to those who generously proposed alternative venues for the CNA meetings. 

Editorship of Current Sociology

The search for a new Editor of Current Sociology led by ISA VP Publications Vineeta Sinha is under way. My appreciation to Vineeta and the subcommittee for all the work involved in this process.

XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, July 2018

We are planning and preparing for the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology with its theme of Power, Violence and Justice: Reflection, Responses and Responsibilities.  The theme is intentionally broad to open it up to a wide array of sessions and activities to foster greater participation and forms of engagement. I also hope that this XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology will be one which bring us together as sociologists and also focus on how scholars, public intellectuals, policy makers, journalists and activists from diverse fields can and do contribute to our understanding of power, violence and justice.  I will provide you more updates as we move forward.  The theme description and the poster are on the website. The poster for the XIX ISA World Congress was prepared by the Canadian Local Organizing Committee and the Congress website includes a short explanation of the logo designed by an indigenous artist, Lydia Prince. The Program Committee received proposals for the Integrative Sessions, Association Sessions, Ad Hoc Sessions and Author Meets Critics Sessions by the January 15, 2017 deadline. In January, Patrizia Albanese (Chair of the LOC) and I met in Toronto with several key institutional and organizational representatives as part of the planning and preparation. We hope to make this Congress a positive experience for attendees both in terms of the program and the preparations on the ground.  

I would like to remind you of some upcoming important deadlines:

Proposals for sessions by RC/WG/TG should be submitted through the on-line platform from the 2nd of February 2017 - 15th of March 2017.

Program Coordinators of each RC/WG/TG will then select the best proposals and on-line abstracts submission will open from the 25th of April - 30 September, 2017. Only abstracts submitted on-line will be considered in the selection process.

ISA Award for Excellence in Research and Practice

This is also a reminder of the opportunity to submit nominations for the ISA Award for Excellence in Research and Practice that was established in March 2013. It is awarded by the International Sociological Association to a sociologist who advances and promotes sociological knowledge and practice through outstanding contributions to the discipline, the profession, and the ISA.

My commitment to represent ISA and my commitment to building institutional capacity to support sociologists who encounter multiple barriers — economic and political — impeding participation in global exchanges remains strong.  As in the past, I continue to be invited to speak at conferences and seminars.

After the ISA Forum in Vienna, I travelled in August 2016 to Seattle to participate in the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting.  Several ISA members participated in Conference and ASA representative to the ISA, Bandana Purkayastha, organized two special panels.  I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable support and cooperation that ISA received from Dr. Sally Hillsman, who retired after serving tremendously well as ASA Executive Officer from 2002-2016. Sally played a pivotal role in fostering greater avenues for cooperation and collaboration between ASA and ISA

In September 2016 I was invited to participate in the XVI Polish Sociological Congress (Gdansk, September 14-17) with its theme of  Solidarity in Times of Distrust. My thanks to Grazyna Skapska, ISA EC member and President of the Polish Sociological Association, and Dr. Anna Horolets. The conference addressed various issues, including concepts and practices of solidarity and sociological engagement with publics.

In October, I was invited to participate in the V All-Russian Sociological Congress in Ekaterinburg (October  19-23). The Congress theme was Social Inequality and Social Justice and this was an important opportunity to meet sociologists, speak on social justice issues and hear the perspectives of Russian sociologists (English; Russian). I also want to take this opportunity to thank Professors Valeriy Mansurov, President and Mikhail Chernysh, Vice President of Russian Society of Sociologists, as well as Professor Elena Grunt of the Local Organizing Committee for productive sociological meetings and for the warm hospitality of the Russian Sociological community.  ISA EC member Elena Zdravomyslova also participated in the Congress, including presenting on the problems with the application of the term “foreign agent” in the context of the Levada case and other non-profit organizations designated as such. This had been addressed by RSS in a statement and also by ISA.  The Congress included debate and dialogue and presentation of reports on the status of sociology and sociology departments, trends in sociological research, and the possibilities of building collaborations with the international community of sociologists. I also had the wonderful opportunity to speak with junior sociologists, hear their perspectives and engage in an interactive discussion organized by Professor Elena Grunt.

In December 2016, I went to Melbourne, Australia, with Benjamin Tejerina, ISA VP for Finance and Membership for an onsite visit. It was a productive set of meetings with the Australian Sociological Association presidents and the Melbourne Convention Bureau. Melbourne offers a good venue to hold the XX ISA World Congress of Sociology in 2022.  

I was also invited to give a seminar at University of Tasmania, Australia. My special thanks to Prof. Maggie Walter Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal Research and Leadership for inviting me, for her warm hospitality and for her commitment to draw attention to the inclusion of indigeneity in the ISA.

In December, I visited Havana, Cuba, with my family for three days. Although the university was closed for the holidays, I was fortunate to be able to meet with Professors Jorge Hernández and Emilio Duharte, and researchers Yolaida Duharte López and Alejandro Guma. My aim was to take this opportunity to invite Cuban sociologists and social scientists to consider joining the ISA.  During the meeting I learned a little about the history of Cuban Sociology and also political science and a recent publication with several  articles on sociology including Cuban Sociology.  We discussed ways that we can increase mechanisms to share these histories, changes hierarchies of knowledge production and contribute to building contextual global sociology

All these visits and discussions are always an important reminder that ISA as the international association for sociologists must be innovative and systematic to do all that we can to build a global community of sociologists and engage in collaborative work across disciplines and with publics to address the issues of our time.

Let me end by saying thank you for your membership in ISA and I hope you will encourage more sociologists to join the ISA. As always, I count and appreciate all the support and communication that I receive from so many of you.  I know that together with your active participation in ISA, we can share our knowledge and practices and show that sociology matters!



Margaret Abraham
President, International Sociological Association

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