September/October 2012 Issue • Volume 40 • Issue 7

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The International Sociological Association 2nd Forum of Sociology in Buenos Aires

Margaret Abraham, Hofstra University and ISA Vice President for Research and ASA Representative to the ISA

This August, 3,600 people from 84 countries, including 300 individuals from the United States, came together in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to participate in the International Sociological Association’s (ISA) 2nd Forum of Sociology (the 1st Forum was in Barcelona in 2008). The Forum theme of “Social Justice and Democratization” was particularly timely, given the events of the past year that saw people across the globe challenging oppressive social, political, and economic regimes with indomitable courage; striving for social justice and daring against all odds to take the difficult but by no means linear roads to democratization.

Historically, Latin America has been an important site for the study of social justice and democratization and Latin American sociologists have been deeply committed to both research and action in the struggles for social justice and democratization. For ISA, holding this Forum in Buenos Aires and returning to Latin America after 30 years (the previous one being the ISA World Congress of Sociology in Mexico in 1982) to hold a conference of this scale was significant. Having the University of Buenos Aires, a public university (where college education for students is free) as the academic venue for the Forum was noteworthy.

As ISA Vice President of Research and ISA Forum President, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with a global community of sociologists and the ISA Secretariat in Madrid in preparing this Forum. Much of the success for the scientific wealth, scale, and diversity of this program was the result of the immense efforts of the 55 ISA Research Committees and the Working and Thematic Groups whose sessions were the foremost priority of this Forum. Through their various research specialties and collaborative endeavors, these groups, under the stewardship of their respective program coordinators, organized more than 650 sessions. These sessions covered a range of topics, including many issues that specifically focused on the Forum theme. Four plenary sessions were devoted to deepening our understanding of social justice and democratization; gender and human rights; social and economic inequalities; and public sociology.

The Argentinian Local Organizing Committee, headed by Alberto Bialakowsky and Alicia Palermo, organized two important Open Forum sessions that spotlighted social justice and the processes of democratization in Latin America. They also put together additional sessions with a focus on Latin America.

Connecting a Global Community

For conference participants who came from all over the world, this ISA Forum provided an important opportunity to learn from one another and enjoy the new intellectual challenges that emerge in international meetings and discussions. It was intellectually invigorating to see a global community sharing their research, critically examining, debating, discussing, and offering a range of perspectives and possible pathways to address some of the formidable dilemmas of our time. Equally important was the strong presence of Latin American sociologists at this Forum and the opportunity provided for the ISA to strengthen ties with Latin America. Nearby cafes were filled with sociologists socializing while enjoying their empanadas and coffee; they were talking in various languages about the sessions they had attended, social justice issues, the state of the economies, the possibilities of collaborations, and what sites to see, tango shows to go to, and what wines and food to consume!

In line with the theme of the 2nd ISA Forum and in order to expand the opportunities to share our work with each other, the ISA also launched an initiative to create a virtual open access resource, titled “Social Justice and Democratization Space.” This initiative, in conjunction with SAGE Publications, is designed to promote more open, equal, and sustainable forms of knowledge production, dissemination, and exchange across the globe. Such an open access virtual space has the potential to break down boundaries and offer us greater possibilities in which to freely share our sociological research, pedagogy, policy. and practices in the public sphere (sjdspace.sagepub.com/).

A Global Dialogue

The ISA Forum brought social scientists from all over the globe together to truly explore how we as sociologists, as engaged citizens, and as human beings can substantively address issues of social justice and democratization. It provided an excellent platform to proactively engage in the international dissemination, exchange of information, and global dialogue that can contribute to transformative change. Over the four days and during hundreds of sessions, an important collaboration occurred with the Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociologia (ALAS) and Asociación Argentina de Sociologia (AAS), which provided an amazing opportunity to deepen our sociological lenses on social justice and democratization. We were given an opportunity to think about the possibilities available to more effectively partner with the broader public to reduce social inequalities. Hopefully, when those of us who attended this Forum look back, we will see it as a moment when our diverse voices came together, using our sociological imagination, to leave sociological footprints marking paths to a more just world.

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