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Letter from the president

Thank you for EASA’s Virtual Lisbon conference

Sarah Green

When we collectively stepped into the unknown in making EASA’s 30th anniversary conference a virtual one, an event that had originally been meticulously planned over a period of two years for an in-person event in Lisbon, we had no way of knowing how it would go. It went remarkably well: over 1800 delegates participated, the largest EASA conference to date; all the plenaries and panels were well attended and audiences actively engaged in discussions; and even the final virtual party prompted some people to dress up and dance around their living rooms, as well as find friends, colleagues and speakers to chat with in the audience. It is still possible to catch up on many of the events that were held at the conference, including the plenary given by Marilyn Strathern, many of the films and even some of the sessions. You can also still browse the book exhibition.

This outcome was a demonstration of what can happen when enough people come together and show enormous generosity of spirit and a willingness to work collectively. Everyone – the organizing committee in Lisbon, the administrative and technical staff led by NomadIT, the volunteers who helped throughout, the publishers, the presenters and – equally importantly – the participants, all stepped up to the plate and not only did what they could, but in fact actively worked to make it a unique and positively reaffirming experience. Thank you: to all our members, and to all those that made it work.

EASA2022: Belfast. At the end of the AGM of the conference, we announced that the host of the 2022 conference will be Belfast. Keep an eye on our website as that event is being planned.

Post-conference events in Lisbon

As I mentioned in the previous newsletter, EASA had committed to hold a number of small in-person events in Lisbon during the course of 2021 as part of the 30-year celebrations of EASA. At the time we made those plans, we expected that by the autumn of 2020, we would know what the Covid-19 situation would be in 2021. We now know that we are living in a condition of known unknowns, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld: we are certain that we cannot predict what the situation will be in early 2021 in relation to Covid-19. So, we will go ahead and make plans for these small events in Lisbon in 2021, and we now announce a call for proposals for them; but we cannot know whether they will, in fact, be held. It depends on the trajectories that the virus which causes the disease takes in its spread around the world, combined with responses from people, governments, international organizations and it even depends a little bit on the spread of disinformation on social media: what people believe determines how they respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Webinars on code of conduct, open access, academic precarity survey and authorship guidelines

At the AGM at the conference, some discussions were begun, and votes held, about issues that are of considerable importance to the association, to anthropology and its future. The most important decision made in the AGM was that EASA should work towards making the association’s journal, Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, fully open access. The AGM voted in favour of this move, while at the same time requesting that the most effective means to do it in practice, and thinking through the implications and consequences of each option, should be carried out before making a final decision on how to make that change. Such a change is not as obvious or straightforward as it appears – in particular, if the readers are not paying for the journal content, then who does pay for all the work that goes into producing the journal, and what would the consequences be for scholarship in making that change? – and so we have arranged a webinar for EASA members in order to discuss the options open to us. We very much look forward to the input and feedback from members that we will receive on this.

We have already held a well-attended webinar on the report of the Code of Conduct Working Group, which was mandated by an AGM vote in 2018 in Stockholm, with the aim of developing recommendations for whether a Code of Conduct Committee should be established by EASA. The working group’s original task, which covered a general remit, was somewhat overshadowed by the particular case of the HAU controversy, which the working group was also asked to consider after EASA received a letter requesting that a review of that controversy be carried out by any new Code of Conduct Committee. The webinar was a welcome opportunity for members to discuss the report of the working group with members of the group, and to discuss ways to move forward with the original idea of a Code of Conduct Committee, or Ombudsperson, as the working group recommended. That task is now ongoing and we will take it forward.

The third webinar we will be holding this year will be a discussion of a major piece of work carried out by the PrecAnthro (Precarious Anthropology) group in association with EASA, which was a survey of our membership on the working conditions in which they live, and how they are experiencing that work. The detailed report on the results of that work is now almost ready, and there will be a discussion of its contents held in a webinar on November 27th. This is a hugely important opportunity to discuss the challenges anthropologists are facing across Europe, in addition to considering the diversity of those challenges, and I would like to encourage as many members as possible to participate in that webinar.

We are also holding a webinar on December 11th, on the Draft of Good Practice guidelines in collaborative research prepared by Alice Tilche and Rita Astuti, which were presented at an EASA AGM held in Brussels in 2019, and then discussed, all too briefly due to lack of time, in the AGM at the Virtual Lisbon conference in July. Votes at the AGM showed a majority support for the principles of these guidelines, while some also expressed concern about some of the details of the guidelines. Given that one of the important elements of such guidelines is to make them widely known, we have arranged a webinar to go through them in detail. Again, this is an important issue, and one that most of us are affected by: how to work collaboratively in joint research projects, most especially regarding authorship and rights over research material.

New EASA Books Series Editors

We were delighted to announce at the conference that, following the end of Alexandar Boskovic’s term as the EASA Book Series Editor, a new team of editors for the series has been selected. They are Annika Lems, Sabine Strasser and Jelena Tošić. They have sent out a new call for monograph proposals. You are warmly encouraged to apply if you have a manuscript brewing.

Your association needs you: stand as a candidate for the EASA Executive

There has never been a time when learned societies were more important than they are now. They provide an independent voice speaking on behalf of their membership, and that is important. This year, EASA is having elections to select five members of its Executive and I would like to strongly encourage members to consider putting themselves forward as candidates. The total Executive is eight members: in addition to the five elected members, there is the Treasurer and Secretary (both selected by interview by the Executive) and an additional member invited by the Executive to join once the newly elected executive is in place.

In the past, the main tasks of the EASA Executive were to arrange the organization of the biennial conference and to ensure that the journal and monograph series were produced regularly. These days, as has been seen, the tasks have grown along with changes in both academic structures and practices, and changes in the role of anthropologists in the world more widely. Learned societies such as EASA are increasingly being called upon to make comments about politically and socially urgent and sensitive issues; we are asked to provide a voice to members and others in our profession who find themselves experiencing injustice, whether in the course of their research or in their academic environments; and we are having to make decisions, such as the one concerning open access publication of our journal, which will have deep consequences for our scholarship in the future. We are also increasingly required to create an ongoing lively and visible presence within social media, and to be able to respond to issues as they emerge in real time. For this reason, Executive members have taken the lead on particular tasks in recent years, so that in addition to the President and Vice-President roles, we also have members who take the lead on liaison with our networks, on emerging issues, on social media, on publications, on ethical issues and on conferences.

The reason five members of the EASA Executive is elected is that the association draws on a model of representative governance: the members vote for candidates to represent them in managing the association and making the day to day decisions for the association. All elected members are expected to represent the entire membership equally and to work in the interests of the association and anthropology more widely. It has been an enormous privilege to have served on the Executive, even during the hard times, such as when we took the decision to have our conference online. Please consider standing for election: your association needs you.

The journal Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale publishes major forum on anthropology responses to Covid-19

A major contribution by anthropologists on the Covid-19 pandemic has been published in Issue 28:2 of EASA’s journal, Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale. The call for contributions generated over 200 responses worldwide, and the editors have done an excellent job on drawing these together. The contributions are currently available as open access material; we encourage all members to go and have a look.

Other News

The EASA Executive was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Marcus Banks in October of this year. He was a member of the Executive between 2017 and 2019, and a member of EASA for almost twenty years. He will be sorely missed.

In another sad development, we were deeply concerned to hear that Fariba Adelkhah has been sentenced to five years in prison in Iran. As members will know, EASA has been closely following this case with considerable concern for over a year now, and along with a number of other learned societies, have asked the French government to do everything in their power to secure her release (Dr Adelkhah is a French citizen).

Also since the last newsletter, EASA expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA, and encouraged members to draw on this moment to think through and consider actions on parallel issues occurring in Europe and other parts of the world. The full statement can be read here.

On behalf of the EASA executive, I do hope you are all continuing to keep safe.
Sarah Green, EASA President, 30th October 2020.