Dear Fellow Sociologists,
This issue of The European Sociologist is dedicated to Sociology Beyond Europe – echoing the conference theme of the 14th ESA Conference in Manchester, “Europe and Beyond”. Five presidents from non-European National Sociological Associations have agreed to tell us about the situation for sociologists and sociology in their countries. Thus we are able to learn how Australia is preparing for the 20th Congress of the International Sociological Association in Melbourne in 2022, to what extent Israeli sociology has a role in public affairs, and how over the past couple of decades, sociology in Japan, Taiwan and South Africa has come to rely less and less on the once highly influential, if not dominant, Western (European and US) sociology, and instead draws its strength from local sociological knowledge production. However, as Babalwa Magoqwana and Malehoko Tshoaedi, President and Vice-President of the South African Sociological Association argue: the division of labour where, for example, “Africa becomes the exporter of data while Europe is the theory base” needs to be challenged. In the same vein the former President of the Japan Sociological Society, Kazuo Seiyama, calls for more truly international research and reminds us that in and for today’s sociology, “When the research question itself is globalised, it is important that the research itself is globalised”.
As these articles show there are many problems that are shared by sociologists worldwide: Both Chih-Jou Jay Chen, President of the Taiwanese Sociological Association and Dan Woodman, President of The Australian Sociological Association, point to the pressure on the social sciences to justify the “return on investment” (Woodman) and to “convince [sociology] students” (Jay Chen) that what they learn is ‘useful’ – highlighting a much deplored threat to sociology as a discipline. Gili S. Drori and Yagil Levy, President and Vice-President of the Israeli Sociological Society report on several public proclamations by the Israeli’s association denouncing moves “to restrain, if not suppress, sociology and other social science disciplines in Israel” – the kind of public proclamations we have recently seen issued by many National Associations (for example concerning sociology’s situation in Hungary and Brazil to name only the two publicly supported by the European Sociological Association).
Another less obvious, but shared, ‘problem’ is mentioned in the articles from Japan, Taiwan and South Africa and concerns the dominance of the English language, on the one hand sometimes acting as a barrier for understanding, but on the other hand ensuring that researchers belong to the worldwide academic community – remember the subtitle of the upcoming conference theme: Borders, Barriers and Belonging. While at the conferences of the European Sociological Association, all paper presenters are asked to speak in English, the ESA is fully aware of this imbalance of language power and is in the process of discussing ways to develop more inclusive strategies for its publications. Stay tuned, as in this area the ESA is on the brink of making major changes and you can read about some of them in Sue Scott’s last President’s Message.
Dr. Dagmar Danko, Editor of THE EUROPEAN SOCIOLOGIST