American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
September/October 2016
Volume 
44
Issue 
6

International Perspectives: A Conversation with Margaret Abraham, ISA President

Bandana Purkayastha, University of Connecticut, ASA Representative to the ISA

Margaret Abraham speaking at the ISA Forum of Sociology in Vienna on July 10.

Margaret Abraham speaking at the ISA Forum of Sociology in Vienna on July 10.

The third International Sociological Association (ISA) Forum in Vienna, Austria, July 10-14, focused on “The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World.” Attended by over 4,000 sociologists from more than 100 countries, Vienna provided an excellent site for this global gathering. American sociologists were well represented in a variety of research committees, plenaries, and leadership positions. Thanks for an excellent meeting to: ISA President Margaret Abraham, Vice-President for Research and President of the Forum, Markus Schulz; Rudolf Richter, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee and his team at the University of Vienna; and the ISA Executive Secretariat. (See www.isa-sociology.org/forum-2016/ for more on the meetings). The ISA is now looking forward to the World Congress in Toronto in 2018.

Below is an excerpt of an interview I conducted with ISA President, Margaret Abraham on her recent ISA activities and travels.

Q: As the ASA representative to ISA, I know you have traveled to 24 places over the last two years to connect to sociologists across the globe. You also started several global initiatives. Can you share more about these initiatives with ASA members?

Margaret Abraham: When I was elected as President in July 2014, I identified some of my key priorities for the ISA and presidential projects. As part of my travels I have been talking to scholars and activists in different countries, and these priorities reflect their concerns as well. The priorities include working toward making ISA membership truly global; seeking avenues to link the local, national, regional, and global as well as connecting and collaborating across disciplines; increasing the participation of junior sociologists and strengthening the association’s financial base to achieve its goals. Together with the ISA Executive Committee, we have moved forward on achieving these goals. Let me mention two projects: the global mapping of sociologists across the world for social inclusion (GMSSI) and the global project to address gendered and intersectional violence against women. These priorities were framed in the contexts of strengthening ISA as a global association of sociologists and the importance of sociological research, policy, pedagogy, and practice in emphasizing our discipline’s role in addressing social justice in the 21st century.

Q: What is the GMSSI project?

Margaret Abraham: The Global Mapping of Sociologists for Social Inclusion or GMSSI platform will identify, connect, and enable global collaborations in sociology, particularly to support sociologists who encounter multiple barriers—economic and political—which impede their participation in global exchanges. Through GMSSI, we hope to partially counter existing hierarchies of knowledge production in our discipline and association and strengthen dialogue among sociologists across the world. An extremely important part is to facilitate our mission of increasing the visibility of sociologists by compiling a database of sociologists across the world with their areas of expertise to help us in strengthening connections and collaborations or be an important resource for sustained interaction with the media on a range of issues. This will be the first such project of this scope and format to bring together sociologists across the world in one integrated database and improve our collaborative outreach to multiple publics. ISA will be reaching out to sociologists and national sociological associations to participate in GMSSI.

Another presidential project is to explore and coordinate a global network of sociologists and stake holders, who will draw upon local, national, regional, and global experiences to provide solutions for mitigating gendered and intersectional violence.

Another presidential project is to explore and coordinate a global network of sociologists and stake holders, who will draw upon local, national, regional, and global experiences to provide solutions for mitigating gendered and intersectional violence. The specific goals and methodology will be worked on together by the collaborating partners. It will also highlight the valuable contributions that sociological research can make to the study and reduction of violence against women. I hope that this project will help guide areas for further research, contribute to developing international norms, policies and practices in eliminating violence against women. A special issue on “Gender, Violence and State in National and Transnational Contexts,” which I co-edited with Evangelia Tastsoglou, for Current Sociology provides some important insights. The next step is to reach out further within and beyond academia.

Q: You have selected an important theme for the XIX World Congress of Sociology in Toronto in 2018. Since I have been working on human rights, justice and violence, I am interested in your choice of this theme. Can you share more about it with the membership?

Margaret Abraham: The theme for 2018 is “Power, Violence and Justice: Reflections, Responses and Responsibilities.” Sociologists have dealt with the concepts of power, violence, and justice. However, I think that the times we live in require us to re-engage and address the social, economic, and political challenges to collaboratively contour a more just world in the 21st century. There are several questions that that we need to consider. For example, what are the diverse and shifting meanings of power, violence, and justice? How do we conceptualize these terms and how are they connected? What are the theoretical frameworks for understanding power and its linkages to violence and justice? What are the dimensions of power, violence, and justice and their intersections? How do we address structural, symbolic, legal, political, physical, social, and economic forms of power, violence, and justice? By whom and under what conditions is power and violence used? When and under what conditions is it justified or normalized. How do we connect and explain the global and local struggles for power and justice and the use of violence to address injustices? The ISA program committee has met and we will be sharing more as we move forward. I have to add that it has been wonderful collaborating with Patrizia Albanese, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) in Canada, who also shared some of the ongoing planning and preparation in Vienna. Now that we’ve completed a successful Third ISA Forum, you will be hearing much more about the program preparations for the XIX World Congress in Toronto as we move forward.