From ESA – Strategies & Activities
Sociological knowledge to overcoming the challenges of uncertain times
Europe and the world are going through rapid changes. The pandemic intensified social inequalities requiring scientists to analyse the reality, provide reliable data, and imagine new solutions for our problems. Therefore, it is essential to say that we, sociologists, are ready to study, understand, and imagine alternative ways to overcome the challenges of these tense and uncertain times. We are armed with theories, methodological tools, and outcomes of critical thinking on sociological practices, which are vital to responding to Europe's social problems.
Challenges such as climate change, health emergencies as the global pandemic, wars and forced migration, the rise of authoritarian forces, conflicts and identity disputes based on gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, among others, the contradictions of the digitalisation of society and the technologies' multiple uses, threats to the freedom of speech, are some of the challenges we have been facing and will continue to face locally and globally in the future.
Let us make a flashback and look at the last two years. We are dealing with many difficulties imposed by the pandemic: lockdowns and being deprived of human contact, particularly with some of the most beloved ones, teleworking, homeschooling, demanding access to health care, economic constraints, uncertainty towards the future lived daily, among other problems targeting our growingly fragile lives. Nonetheless, it was exciting to experience the deep solidarity and joint efforts developed at our families, workplaces, and communities at large.
Social relations are powerful, and this became clear when everything seemed to be falling apart. Sociologists show how social bonds are the tissue of our society. Knowing them illuminates the unveiled social mechanisms that (re)produce society daily. The ESA can play a remarkable role in tackling and structuring connections between scholars and non-scholars and side-by-side with the citizens in processes of research co-creation in order to overcome the troubled times we are facing. The sociologists working inside and outside of academia are important actors in building bridges between knowledge production and its application to concrete social problems. Who are the sociologists working outside of academia, in direct contact with the people, where and how are they working in Europe is worth further exploration.
Sociology is more than ever crucial for society. Joining efforts together in a collective and non-profit organisation such as ESA is an excellent way of growing Sociology stronger and making it useful for society. We need to embrace a creative and strong leadership that helps ESA grow and evolve, going with the discipline's new perspectives, methodologies, and topics. Furthermore, the diversity of the ESA members strengthens our role in the different countries we live. At the ESA, we build bridges between the different social realities and territories while interchanging vital knowledge to understand Europe and intervene based on solid scientific grounds.
Over the last months, the ESA Executive Committee has worked hard and accomplished imperative tasks with the support of the ESA Office composed by the Treasurer, Tiziana Nazio, the General Secretary, Loukia-Maria Fratsea and the Executive Secretary, Esmeray Yogun. The members of the Executive Committee met for the first time on October 14th and 15th this year in Paris and online; roles and responsibilities were allocated, and the ESA Sub-Committees were approved. The decisions taken at the last General Assembly were immediately addressed, and the Sub-Committees engaged in planning the following tasks to develop during this term. According to point 10 of the ESA Bylaws, the Sub-Committees "are responsible for preparing relevant decisions in their domain and reporting on them to the Executive Committee". Many decisions were possible in the last weeks because the Sub-Committees constantly worked to prepare those decisions and frequently reported to the Executive Committee.
The Policy Sub-Committee, chaired by Kaja Gadowska, is key to defining the strategy for the Association. The team addressed the decisions taken at the GA while contributing to framing other challenges, namely the overlapping of the European Sociological Association and the International Sociological Association Conferences.
Because of COVID-19, ISA changed the date of its Congress from 2022 to 2023. ISA and ESA's scientific events can occur in the same year in the Summer for the future (ISA and ESA Conferences in 2023, ESA Conference and ISA Forum in 2025, ISA and ESA Conferences in 2027, ...). ESA's financial sustainability depends on the income from membership and the Conference. Therefore, the coinciding of the two events will necessarily undermine ESA's financial standing in the future. For this reason, the Executive Committee decided to consult the members on the postponement of the 16th Conference due to exceptional reasons to avoid overlapping with ISA events. The Conference postponement legally implies the extension of the ESA Executive Committee.
Starting from a solid legal basis, the Executive Committee launched an online consultation on the possibility of postponing the ESA Conference, extending the mandate of the Executive Committee, and renewing the membership at no extra fee. The members responded very positively to the call, and the participation in the online consultation was very expressive: 1285 out of 3122 members (41,2%) voted in the consultation. 1029 respondents agree with the postponement (80,1%), 196 respondents do not agree (15,3%) with the postponement and 59 respondents abstained (4,6%). The high participation and results of the consultation indicate that this matter is important for the ESA members, and the Executive Committee is already working on addressing it properly. Next year the members will receive news regarding this process. Moreover, the Policy Sub-Committee is planning the comprehensive review of the ESA Statutes, approved at the last General Assembly, projecting a strategy for a prolific implication of the ESA bodies, namely the Research Networks and the National Associations.
The Conference is one of the most relevant projects of the Association, central for financial sustainability. In November, the Executive Committee and the Office conducted a survey on the last Conference. Nine hundred fifty-seven replies to the survey were received (almost a 30% response rate). The results indicate that the delegates appreciated the Conference very much, despite the online-only format. Furthermore, great suggestions were made for future conferences, and the Executive Committee will definitely consider them for the organisation of the 16th Conference.
Beyond working on the Conference dates in articulation with the Policy Sub-Committee, the Conference Sub-Committee also discussed the theme, the list of possible keynote speakers, and the criteria for selecting those speakers. Another important task was to reopen the Call for Conference Bids as an insufficient number of proposals had been received so far. As chair of the Sub-Committee, Gary Pollock is putting into action the knowledge accumulated as chair of the ESA 14th Conference Local Organising Committee, together with a team of colleagues with broad experience in the organisation of previous ESA Conferences. ESA is ready to face all the possible scenarios, and a lot has been accomplished so far in order to organise a fruitful event. The Conference place and theme will be announced by late January 2022.
Connecting with postgraduate students by continuing to organise the ESA Summer School was one of the priorities of the Postgraduate Sub-Committee. Postgraduate students encounter an increasingly complex space to develop their research. Conducting sociological research under pandemic restrictions, being deprived of reduced face-to-face interaction with peers and supervisors, and looking at non-so-bright future research and teaching opportunities make an arduous way ahead. ESA is always committed to stimulating spaces for networking and collaboration between postgraduate students. Hence, the Sub-Committee, led by the energetic Krešimir Žažar, worked on putting together a plan and a call for the next Summer School to be held both online and onsite in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik - Croatia, on September 5-6, 2022. Certainly, postgraduate students from all over Europe will contribute with excellent research papers, and the instructors will give their best to the event.
The Executive Committee is committed to reinforcing the communication with the members and the "outside" world. As chair of the Communications Sub-Committee and editor of the European Sociologist, Luigi Pellizzonni made an exceptional effort to organise an issue of the e-magazine in a short period. Communicating and reporting on the activities of the ESA bodies is part of the glue that will keep us together under such challenging times. That is why we decided to publish a new issue this year, to feed communication within the Association and let the members know of future plans. The team is preparing the call for the next issue of the European Sociologist and will promote participation from the Research Networks, National Associations, and members. The Sub-Committee was also involved in tackling the ESA's needs and expectations for IT services working closely with the Finance Sub-Committee.
The Publications Sub-Committee, led by Michalis Lianos, editor-in-chief of European Societies for the last years, is developing ESA's publications strategy towards open access, building from the work of the former Sub-Committee, while broadening the role of ESA journals. European Societies and the European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology are very relevant journals in the sociological academic community. Editors and boards continue to contribute to the success of these editorial projects.
Evaluating risks and opportunities of moving towards open access involving all actors is a priority for Publications. Structuring a coherent plan to address both scientific and financial concerns at the Association is decisive for the future. The editorial boards of the ESA's Journals will be actively involved in this process over the following months.
The International Relations Sub-Committee, chaired by Teresa Sorde, was concentrated on strengthening the role of social sciences in Europe by networking at the European and overseas levels. Social sciences are now more critical than ever, and social scientists must work together with common goals in research, policy and action. The Sub-Committee has been working on new ideas to amplify the networking while participating very actively at the European Alliance of Social Sciences and Humanities, namely at the General Assembly held on November 4th in Brussels. We shall continue linking at an International level; that is why I also accepted the invitations from the Polish Sociological Association, the Russian Society of Sociologists, and the Italian Sociological Association to represent the ESA at the scientific events organized by those notable associations of sociologists.
Together with the chair of the National Associations Council, Maria Carmela Agodi, the International Relations Sub-Committee intensified connections with national and international associations to develop initiatives promoting debate on the relevance of European Sociology for society. The role and status of Sociology in secondary education is a growing concern for the sociological communities in Europe. The Sub-Committee is designing new initiatives to tackle this issue as well.
Research Networks are the heart of the Association. As chair of the Research Networks Council, Bernadette Brereton has been working very closely with the Coordinators and boards on applications to the funding support, articulating the various initiatives with the Executive Committee, among them the consultation on the postponement and extension of the Executive Committee mandate. Of course, supporting Research Networks for emerging scientific research topics will continue to be a priority for the rest of the term.
An ad-hoc group on the Public Engagement of Sociology, chaired by Michalis Lianos, has started to define pertinent points to raise the public profile of Sociology building from its scientific grounds. The group is preparing particular initiatives to be shared soon. Participation of all the bodies and ESA members will be pivotal!
Last but not least, the Finance Committee, chaired by Tiziana Nazio, is now working on concluding the 2021 budget while previewing the Association's finances and was organising the call for manifestation of expressions of interest for providing IT services to the ESA. The Sub-Committee, led by a very experienced member of the Association, will continue to contribute to make ESA even better and more transparent.
An accountable and dynamic European Sociological Association can make a difference in society and engage Sociology publicly. It is so inspiring to make part of this excellent team of scholars that are continuing to honour the legacy of the previous Executive Committees while rethinking creatively the ESA to address the challenges of our times.
European Sociology has an organised and creative room to continue and go forward, without closing itself to the world, but instead opening doors to other fields of knowledge and other territories and continents. However, this success needs constant work. We need to go forward!
The Executive Committee wishes all the ESA members and sociologists a Happy New Year full of new and positive energies!