Letter from the President
Living in interesting times
We are living in interesting times, which means that now is not the moment for quietly sitting back and hoping that things will somehow sort themselves out. The multiple challenges to academia in general and anthropology in particular are well known – some of the most serious instances recently being the challenges presented in Hungary, Poland, Turkey and Brazil. Literally the moment the new EASA Executive Committee began its work in February 2019, we were being asked to respond to multiple cases of infringements of academic independence and, as often, the survival of disciplines, universities and individual liberty.
Related to those challenges, a survey of academic precarity within anthropology carried out on behalf of EASA by the PrecAnth group is in the process of revealing the extent and systematic character of difficult working conditions for many anthropologists – particularly early career scholars, though not only them. Over the next year, the PrecAnth group will work to produce more detailed results, and you can read more about their planned work below. There will also be a special issue of Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale focusing on the issue of precarity, based on an EASA conference on that subject held in Bern in 2018 (look out for it in December 2019).
Collectively, the PrecAnth group’s work on precarity is pointing towards issues that go beyond the daily struggles of individual scholars, and more towards a progressive narrowing of the space in which independent scholarship, and independent networks of scholars, can work and thrive. It is also clear that this process is not affecting all disciplines in the same way, nor at the same rate; the social sciences in general, and smaller disciplines such as anthropology and gender studies in particular, have often borne the brunt of political, financial and – perhaps most frequently - structural threats, in which the visibility of these areas of scholarship are being reduced.
In addition to these challenges within the academy, the European world in which EASA was founded almost thirty years ago has dramatically changed: the reverberations of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and all the subsequent shifts in political goal posts that this ushered in are still being felt; the rise of financialization of everything, including the academic sector, which has been accompanied by audit culture, and the casualization of working conditions (short-term research projects are at the heart of academia’s version of the ‘gig economy’) which have majorly contributed to academic precarity, are changing the conditions in which anthropology is carried out; the major financial meltdown that began in 2008 has affected everyone, but has hit EASA members working in some parts of Europe far worse than others; the referendum in the UK about leaving the EU that gave rise to that awful neologism ‘Brexit’ has resulted in an ongoing and seemingly endless period of uncertainty, which has hit the academic sector particularly hard; the EU’s introduction of Plan S, which is intended to make all academic publishing free to the reader from the moment of publication has made the ongoing debate on open access particularly urgent; the question of how academic practices can respond to the climate change emergency, which will require us to find increasingly imaginative ways to continue to meet and communicate while we try to reduce the necessity of getting on planes, trains and automobiles to attend conferences, is an even more pressing issue; and there are some issues within anthropology’s own house that need urgent attention.
The importance of EASA as an independent scholarly anthropology association
Just one of these issues would be challenging enough; collectively, they send a signal of the importance of the existence of EASA over the last three decades. In particular, these challenges point to the increasing importance of maintaining EASA’s capacity to provide an independent and safe space in which scholars can share their ideas and work towards ensuring that we promote best practices within anthropology, and that our voice is also heard outside our discipline. The new EASA Executive Committee is committed to making a contribution to both ensuring that, and to dealing with those multiple challenges collectively and with a positive and forward-looking spirit. Despite the somewhat harrowing list of issues we face, I speak for all of us in saying that we feel it is a privilege to serve as Executive Committee members on behalf of anthropologists in Europe, and we are all looking forward to the two years ahead.
The new EASA Executive Committee: a collaborative effort
You can read more about the new executive below and on our website here. Briefly, their roles on the Executive Committee are:
Sarah Green (myself - President, and also working on emerging issues, awards, and liaison with other organizations);
Georgeta Stoica (Vice-President, and also working on the PrecAnthro Group, communication with the Code of Conduct Working Group, lobbying, and communication with other organizations);
David Mills (Treasurer, and working also on awards and ethics issues);
Monica Heintz (Secretary, and working also on ethics issues and liaison with the Code of Conduct Working Group);
Prem Kumar Rajaram (Member co-oped by the Executive Committee);
Cristiana Bastos (EASA Networks liaison, Conference liaison, and EASA membership issues);
Mariya Ivancheva (PrecAnthro Group liaison, lobbying, emerging issues, and outreach and social media);
Miia Halme-Tuomisaari (EASA Networks liaison, outreach and social media, an EASA membership).
There are several new roles listed here that are being introduced to the Executive for the first time, but all of them are part of a collaborative effort, in which we will be working together to serve the interests of our members and anthropology in the best way that we can.
One of the most notable new roles is ‘outreach and social media’. Miia Halme-Tuomisaari and Mariya Ivancheva will be working on improving EASA’s presence online. We will be sending out a questionnaire quite soon to the membership to canvas for ideas about how to improve our online presence and communication. We know we can do better: we very much look forward to hearing your ideas on how we should go about that.
News and looking ahead: Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale gets SSCI indexing; EASA AGM in Brussels in October and EASA 2020 in Lisbon – book the dates;
In other news and events, we are delighted to report that our journal, Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, is now being indexed by the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), which is run by Clarivate. The new editorial team at SA/AS introduce themselves later in this newsletter. The importance of SSCI indexing in terms of scholarship is that articles in the journal are much more easily searchable online now. This status also means that authors can find bibliometric information for articles published in the journal – which, although such data should be treated with high levels of caution in scholarly terms, are part of the auditing regimes in which most anthropologists work. That is one more example of the Catch 22 situations in which most of us are caught in the current conditions: we are aware that bibliometric data do not accurately reflect scholarship, most especially in the humanities and social sciences; yet we are also aware that such data are regularly used by academic institutions to judge their staff.
We have two major EASA events coming up, in addition to the events listed by our networks below. The first is an EASA AGM meeting on 28th and 29th October 2019. Apart from having a lot of important business to deal with at that AGM, we will also be holding a workshop focusing on the role of the EU and the way that Brussels works in the practice of anthropology in Europe, so note the dates. The second is the next EASA conference, which celebrates 30 years of EASA by returning to the country in which the first EASA conference was held: Portugal. The next EASA conference will be held on 21-24 July 2020 in Lisbon. Please mark the date and watch out for the call for panels and papers at the end of August.
Sarah Green, EASA President
5th July 2019