Message from the President
Browse News by Year
I am delighted to write to you as president of the CSA. It is a great honour to serve. I deeply appreciate the hard work of past-president, Irene Shankar and her predecessor, Abdi Kazemipur.
The last one year has been fast-paced with a level of reprieve from the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2023 Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences was highly successful. The CSA had over 1,000 registered persons, thereby constituting ~10% of all registrants at Congress. It was great to see several of you in-person at Congress. What a fine change from the previous two years! I believe the pandemic left us with at least one positive thing: The value of human interaction. Technology has been quite helpful when needed but nothing beats face-to-face in-person contact.
Congratulations to our colleagues at York University for their excellent work. McGill University will host the 2024 Congress.
I also had the opportunity to attend the World Congress of Sociology in Melbourne, Australia as your delegate to meetings of national associations and various elections. I was pleased to see some of you at the Melbourne Convention Centre. Please, get involved with the International Sociological Association, if you are not yet a member. The next World Congress of Sociology is in South Korea in 2027.
One of my objectives is to foster greater collaboration between the CSA and various national associations. I was pleased to accept an invitation from the American Sociological Association (ASA) for a panel discussion on interdisciplinarity and the role of our discipline in challenging inequality. I am looking forward to joining the ASA president, Prudence Carter (Brown University), co-moderator, Neda Maghbouleh (University of British Columbia) and other colleagues from the US and Brazil for the first panel at this year’s ASA conference in Philadelphia. We will continue to work towards greater ties with national associations in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.
We live at a critical time in human history. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, many student groups demanded action on EDID in their universities. I encourage you all to continue advocating for a better world and working environment. As I noted in my presentation to the CSA in October 2020, sociologists ought to be part of the epicenter of the global movement to eradicate social injustice. Commitment to such an endeavour is not momentary, ephemeral or an exercise in rhetorical performativity. Various departments, units and faculties should consider evaluating policies and practices undergirding their hiring decisions, promotion, merit incrementation, award nomination or decision-making regarding students and faculty and appointment to administrative positions, among others. Let us continue to ask ourselves difficult and uncomfortable questions.
Monolithic departments of sociology should be outdated. This would be reflected in the combination of regions of expertise as well as ethno-racial and gender diversity of faculty and students. Cohort hires are gaining traction across Canada. From initial scepticism earlier in my career, I have embraced the tremendous value of cohort hires as I served on several hiring committees over the years. There is research demonstrating how hiring committees reproduce themselves (though not typically viewed as “cohort hires”). Therefore, today’s cohort hires are a crucial intervention in some contexts. I hope we get to a point where cohort hires — both the old and new kind — are no longer necessary.
We have work to do regarding the sociologies of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. Hiring scholars with expertise in these areas will enrich our academic programs and give our students a more robust and heightened global experience. I encourage everyone with decision-making authority at various sociology departments and other units of our universities to engage in stocktaking on these matters.
I want to welcome president-elect, Liam Swiss. I promise to hand over the CSA to him in one piece. A warm welcome to all the 2023/2024 Executive Committee members.
Finally, I am writing from Germany, where I am currently an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at Leipzig University. I visited a few days ago the Stasi Museum (Gedenkstätte Museum in der „Runden Ecke“), at the former Ministry for State Security in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The KGB could be considered its institutional equivalent and indeed once superintended the Stasi’s activities. Stasi was incredibly efficient at the height of its power in the GDR. Besides disappearances, torture, and death, the modus operandi of the Stasi included causing personal troubles for activists, vocal students, workers and miscellaneous dissidents. Some of those who lived to see the end of the GDR were able to access their files and view the link between their miscellaneous personal misfortunes and state activity. Stasi conducted both high-tech and retail-level surveillance of the population. As I viewed the exhibits and listened to the narratives around them, I was reminded of the outsized role of the state and the power of social structure in people’s lives. I was also reminded of the power of the individual. Much of the surveillance and other activities of the Stasi could not have been accomplished without willing and unwilling accomplices — everyday citizens, neighbours, and fellow churchgoers, etc. The eyes of the Stasi were everywhere precisely because a majority of its spies was regular people.
As sociologists, we are correct to emphasize the salience of social structure. However, I hope we do not obliterate or underestimate the significance of the role of the individual. You matter. You can make a difference within your sphere of influence. Start making positive change today whether or not the matter directly affects you. See you in Montreal in 2024!
3 August 2023