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1. EASA President’s Letter

Mariya summarises recent EASA activities

Mariya Ivancheva

It has been a hectic period, the last few months, since our last newsletter, to say the least.

Without any overstatement, our whole activity and the life and work on our continent and beyond, has been overshadowed by the horrendous war that Russia waged on Ukraine in February 2022. Having issued our statement condemning this war and supporting anthropologists in Russia who oppose it, we also had to make certain decisions about and changes to the accents of EASA activities to respond to this growing emergency, sadly still evolving at full speed. To this end, we co-organised with WCAA a meeting with chairs and representatives of all European anthropological associations, to discuss a co-ordinated action on the war and the crises shaking our continent: a sequel to this meeting will take place at EASA2022 in Belfast and will be communicated shortly. We also co-organised - with co-sponsorship of AAA’s Society of the Anthropology of Europe, SOYUZ and SIEF - a fundraising webinar series on the humanitarian reactions to the war and the EU border crisis (video 1), as well as its effects on heritage sites in Ukraine and all knowledge of social alternatives that military action erases (video 2). We have also decided to establish a Film Award to commemorate the murder of award-winning filmmaker, anthropologist, archaeologist and EASA member, Mantas Kvedaravičius: he was taken prisoner and then shot in cold blood by the Russian military during the siege of Mariupol, the city he had documented over many years (obituary). The Award will be made at EASA2022, where we will also host a Roundtable on the developments in Ukraine. We plan to continue working on this topic through our work with Scholars at Risk, and through further events, starting with a webinar in the fall on the effects of the war across the world, especially on the food and fuel crisis. We have, together with SIEF and also thanks to NomadIT, produced a shared resource helping scholars at risk, especially from Ukraine (but not only), to access support.

While the war has really shown the ugly face of disaster capitalism, the main context of our work, European and global academia, has been suffering its own crises, which we have continued monitoring and responding to. Over the last six months, we have facilitated two consultancies. One was organised in cooperation with the PrecAnthro group, dedicated to precarity and resistance - it will culminate with a report by Dr Heather McKnight on cases of academic organising against precarity, and an event discussing our role and next steps in fall 2022. The other consultancy was devised together with the Integrity Committee, devoted to the difficult but crucial questions of bullying and sexual harassment in European Higher Education. These will feed into the work of EASA’s executive against precarity, intersectional inequalities and toxic power dynamics in academia, which will also be discussed across different events at our conference. The newly formed - and by now fully functioning - Integrity Committee has also been busy defining its own remit, as part of which it has produced an outstanding statement on bullying and sexual harassment not only stating a firm political position, but also sharing a wealth of resources on the subject. In terms of academic integrity and freedom, we have continued to closely follow ongoing cases of enclosure of academic autonomy (Fariba Adelkhah, Ahmet Samir) and have also signaled our strong opposition to structurally violent reforms happening against Greek academia, and cases of more straightforward physical violence as in the case of the tragic deaths of Bruno Araújo Pereira and Dom Philips, investigating land and climate justice in Brazil. 

And of course, in the meantime, together with the Queen’s University Belfast local committee, we have all been busy organising the biennial conference #easa2022. This one comes as a first attempt on our behalf, together with the tireless NomadIT, to combine the lessons from the pandemic and other crises and war and climate emergencies, and produce a truly hybrid conference. It also happens in a good place to reflect on ongoing violent conflict and understand better structures of desire, hopes and practices of future-building in its aftermaths. With hybrid being taken very seriously by both organisers and participants, we are anticipating a conference which is truly split between on- and offline participation. Some frustration has resulted from the overall price hikes and cancellations that flights to the UK have been affected by, due to the authorities' failure to provide adequate solutions to the EU border crisis and airport staff cuts during the pandemic. We have tried to mitigate these contingencies through funding. Around €23,000 was granted to help with 91 delegates' participation costs, based on financial need and taking into account cases of precarity and inequality. A further €5,000 has been allocated to help 20 delegates travel in a low-carbon way, contributing to a slight reduction in the conference footprint. Both totals have been affected by delegates switching their mode of attendance to online, or having to change their travel plans. Having 420 applications for participation assistance means we turned away 80% of applicants, many of whom were in clear financial need. Despite what this says about the structural problems of higher education and the discipline, a degree of ire was directed at our administrators. Yet funding all applicants would have required EASA to input a further €92,000, which is not within the scope of EASA's two-year budget. EASA had already ringfenced up to €30,000 to cover possible losses from the conference, in light of the fee levels agreed, and while the financial implications of SA/AS's move to OA remain uncertain. That said, it is clear that while our delegate funding offer is far larger than most similar association conferences, the need is yet greater still, and we will advise the next Executive to consider increasing the funding pot for the next biennial. 

With all this in mind, we continue. Looking forward to seeing many of you in Belfast, either in person or in Zoom. And as it is members who make the association, please to not forget to submit your motions/resolutions to our AGM: any motions/resolutions members wish to raise should be submitted to easa(at) no later than one week prior to the AGM (21st July). These will allow us to understand better where we are doing something right that needs deepening, and where we might be erring and in need of correction.

Mariya Ivancheva
University of Strathclyde
EASA President 2021-2023