September-October 2009 Issue • Volume 37 • Issue 7

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ISA Prepares for 2010
World Congress of Sociology

by Val Moghadam, Purdue University, and member of the ISA Executive Committee and the National Associations Liaison Committee, Representing ASA

Every four years—sometimes in tandem with the World Cup—the International Sociological Association (ISA) holds its World Congress. Many members of the ASA will fondly recall the last Congress, which took place in July 2006 in Durban, South Africa (enjoying the sightseeing, wines, safari, and oh yes, the terrific sessions). This time, the XVII World Congress of Sociology will convene in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 10-17 July 2010. (The World Cup takes place on June 11–July 11 in South Africa; which means there will be some competition for the attention of football fans at the Congress opening!) And for those who plan that far ahead, the ISA will hold its 2014 World Congress in Yokohama, Japan.

I have been an ISA member since 1990; since 2006 I have represented the ASA on the National Associations Liaison Committee (NALC) and am an elected member of the ISA Executive Committee. (See the July/August 2009 Footnotes for the previous report.) Below, I update readers on recent ISA activities, including preparations for next year’s world congress. Some of the information comes from the meeting of the Executive Committee (EC), which took place in Paris in April.

The ISA: Structure and Members

The ISA is a large and active association with an organizational structure consisting of the Madrid-based secretariat and an Executive Committee elected at each world congress; 55 national associations (as well as a number of affiliated professional associations); 55 research committees (RCs); 4 thematic groups (TGs); and 2 working groups (WGs). Membership is collective (in the form of dues-paying national associations) and individual; in both cases, the fee schedule follows the World Bank classification of country income levels. ISA members typically are involved in one or another of the research committees and groups; in turn the RCs, WGs, and TGs organize panels and sessions for the World Congress.

The current ISA president is Michel Wievorka, the well-known French public sociologist, and past presidents include the ASA’s Immanuel Wallerstein. Presidents are elected at each world congress and, like the members of the EC, serve for four years.

ISA journal publications include International Sociology, the International Sociology Review of Books, and Current Sociology. Books are occasionally published. The Sage Studies in International Sociology will produce The Handbook of Diverse Sociological Traditions, edited by Sujata Patel. At the request of UNESCO, the ISA also has been involved with the preparation of the World Social Science Report, to appear in 2010. Titled "Knowledge Divides," the report will focus attention on inequalities or asymmetries in the social sciences across the globe. A new ISA project is the online Sociopedia, which is still being formalized. At present a number of foundational essays have been solicited.

U.S. Representatives

Past ASA president Michael Burawoy is vice-president for national associations and heads the NALC. Burawoy has been an extraordinarily energetic officer with an unrelenting travel schedule. He was in Iran in June 2008 at the invitation of the Iranian National Association; he traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, in March for the conference of the National Associations; and he has attended meetings of the Society of Professional Sociologists in Moscow, the South African Sociological Association, and the Japan Sociological Society. He also set up a common website for the national associations, which is now accessible from the main ISA website. It contains a template for all national associations to develop their websites; reports from ISA representatives on the national and regional meetings they attended; and includes the 10 volumes of Regional Sociologies, organized by Immanuel Wallerstein.

Another very active U.S.-based member of the EC is Jan Marie Fritz, University of Cincinnati, who is vice-president for finance. She has been involved in the International Laboratories for PhD Students in Sociology, an ISA innovation that convenes almost every year in a different location around the world. Here, a selection committee chooses 10-15 doctoral students to discuss their research and receive tips on writing their dissertations, doing research, and getting published. Fritz also has a hectic travel schedule: In 2008, she has represented the ISA at the Second Congress of Sociologists from Turkic Countries and Third Congress of the Association of Sociologists of Kazakhstan in Almaty; and the XI Central American Congress of Sociology and IV Congress of Sociology of El Salvador, which took place in San Salvador. More travels took place in 2009.

These and many other Americans took part in the ISA Forum of Sociology, which convened in Barcelona on September 5-8, 2008. The Forum, which was a first for the ISA, was a big success in terms of a number of participants: 2,549 from 92 countries, including 300 scholars from Latin America. Discussions continue as to whether the Forum will become a permanent part of ISA activities.

Politics and the ISA

Inevitably, an association of scholars with the international scope of the ISA will face political challenges, whether these are difficulties faced by individual sociologists in particular countries, diplomatic stalemates, or debates concerning the sociological enterprise. With respect to international diplomacy, a Task Force on China, chaired by Michael Burawoy, notes that a formal relationship with the Chinese Sociological Association is not yet possible due to the fact that the Taiwanese Sociological Association has been accepted as a collective member of the ISA. On the positive side, though, there is growing cooperation among the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese sociological associations, which could facilitate participation of individual Chinese scholars in international conferences. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese scholars involved in the Research Committees.

Diversity in sociological traditions is both the subject of ISA research (as well as the title of an upcoming ISA book publication) and an association principle. As expected, however, the subject remains controversial, and over the years it has generated many debates and projects, from "indigenization" to "Islamic social sciences" to "Southern theory" as an antidote to hegemonic "Northern theory." The latter was high on the agenda of the Taipei conference last March, in connection with the presentations of Raewyn Connell (and her recent book Southern Theory) and Farid Alatas (and his pioneering work on "alternative sociologies.") The debate on the universal and the particular in sociology, and what constitutes sociology for a globalized world, will no doubt continue. logo

The XVII World Congress of Sociology Gothenburg, Sweden,
July 10-16, 2010

Call for Papers

The International Sociological Association (ISA) will hold the XVII World Congress of Sociology in Sweden in July 2010, with the theme "Sociology on the Move." Sociology on the move means that our discipline contributes to an understanding of our world by defining new objects of research, devising new approaches, and reevaluating its rich heritage. It implies a new openness with regard to other disciplines and to normative questions. The ISA offers an enormous variety of perspectives—in terms of cultures, gender, and generation. All contribute to the vitality of our discipline.

The Call for Papers is included in links to Research Committees
(RC) and Working and Thematic Groups on the ISA website. Deadlines for proposals vary by RC, but all close before 2010. See and connect to specific RCs to view information for submitting proposals.

Travel Funds

ASA will provide travel support to the XVII World Congress with funds awarded by the National Science Foundation for this purpose. Information about travel support will be published in January 2010 in various ASA sources. The selection process will include a peer-reviewed assessment of applications, and will seek to ensure a presence at the World Congress of junior scholars and sociologists underrepresented in international scholarly meetings.

The ISA is the major international organization of sociologists, and the World Congress is therefore an important opportunity for U.S. sociologists to exchange ideas and scholarship and promote collaborations on an international scale. logo


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