1. Outgoing and incoming Presidents' Letters
EASA Outgoing President’s Letter (Mariya Ivancheva, 2021-23)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,... it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…” These words of Dickens come to mind when thinking back of my own four years in the EASA exec of which two years as a President. I have been hugely privileged and energised to be elected to serve you all, EASA members: more so as electing a precarious early career academic with interdisciplinary and transregional scholarly profile from Eastern Europe was not an obvious choice for an association which traditionally elected senior scholars solidly established in the discipline and its core hubs of knowledge production. A change, which the election of comrade, colleague and friend Ana Ivasiuc and Alexandra Oanca for next President and Vice-President, now feels as more of a trend; and one which speaks less of my own achievements, perhaps, and more of a larger change of the profile and concerns represented within anthropology and academia in Europe, and which Martin Fotta, Raluca Pernes and I described in our report on the Anthropological career in Europe.
The mandate had its own limitations and responsibilities that weren’t easy. Perhaps the two most obvious ones were the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine, of course, which shook our personal, professional, and political world and scarred the very social tissue and social contract of postwar Europe and across the Iron Curtain, already crumbling under the assault of advanced capitalism. But other challenges were present as well - the draining of finance and oxygen for critical social sciences - in authoritarian regimes within and outwith Europe, but also by the logic of capital taking ever stronger grip over our regimes of working, learning, and caring. For me personally, a challenge was as well, moving between the visibly blurred but also invisibly consolidated roles of academic activist, and between someone who entered the exec from a pressure group, PrecAnthro and then had to meet half way as a President members who came with other concerns, agendas, and ways of work. It has all been a learning curve and learning does not stop with the end of the mandate. In this, PrecAnthro’s strategic advice and NomadIT’s insight and logistical support have been truly indispensable - thank you friends!
It is also difficult to recapitulate everything that happened in these years. During the mandate of the present exec, we followed some initiatives of the previous EASA exec, strengthening the association’s anti-casualisation work, opening the conversation on decolonising the discipline, looking for ways to support colleagues facing the rise of new authoritarian forms of oppression and those suffering abuse within and outside anthropology due to fundraising and publication enclosures, and the impending climate, health and multiple crises of capitalism. We had some achievements, starting by moving our journal Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale from corporation Wileys to a smaller family publishing house Berghahn, and to fully open access. We are hoping that our book series, also historically with Berghahn, will also soon offer its books open access, but for journal to work out members’ institutions need to commit to the subscribe-to-open mission.
Together with the PrecAnthro collective we followed from the previous exec’s PrecAnthro report and a consultant has been finalising a report and database of anti-precarity initiatives in academia. Another report is pending on anti-harassment best practices commissioned by EASA’s Integrity Committee: a new establishment still consolidating its mandate for action, which we hope next execs will develop.
EU-level lobby groups such as the ISE and the EASSH, has continued and we have been invited to consult the European Commission’s Early Career Framework, and ISE’s manifesto - perhaps not the radical documents we need for profound structural change, but steps in the right direction and hopefully not without the influence of pioneering work on anti-precarity EASA has also been part of. Together with representatives from these lobby groups we developed some of our webinars on EU funding, open data, open access and open science, and participated in their webinars on academic careers. We also supported scholars and institutions at risk, both individual cases and bigger struggles like those happening in Iran, Brazil, and Ukraine. Our engagement with Russia’s war against Ukraine involved not just our own statement and a fundraising webinar series (co-sponsored by kindred societies in AAA-Soyuz and the SIEF) but also established a Film Award for late colleague Mantas Kvedaravičius and joined efforts with other WCAA members in support to Russian colleagues and against Russia’s war-mongering association.
What is left, and where next, of course it’s the mandate of our next exec to decide. A few directions, though, of what I personally would like to see moving forward:
Website & public facing media: we still need to progress on our website redevelopment. In this exec we identified design as a secondary concern: the real issue is migration to a sustainable digital platform like wordpress. The newsletter & fb/twitter have been our key tool for informing our members, but we need to think if a dedicated paid position is needed.
Events & members engagement: we have decided against holding event around AGMs and have held webinars, but echoes from generative Bern and Brussels mid-term events on significant issues call us to rethink this pandemic era solution. We also have promised webinars on global effect of war and anti-precarity and integrity reports, which old exec members will contribute to.
Work with associations across Europe and beyond: we held meetings with national associations across Europe and WCAA who see us as key partner, but we need to align our work on anti-precarity, research-based advocacy and lobbying, while we learn from them other issues in which they have been successful nationally or internationally.
Our ecosystem: While we have worked toward a solution for networks, indefinite proliferation might not be a long-term sustainable solution. Further thinking on the networks ecosystem is due. Conferences, AGMs, exec meetings need to find the balance between on- and offline without jeopardizing sustainability, community or care. Publications need steady slow growth.
Mission & structure & constitution: EASA is a learned society, registered as a UK-based charity, that has a rather limited mandate in post-Brexit Europe. While this leaves with little sanctioning power within the discipline, we have developed an image of active agent for social change. Next execs need to think if our structure and statutes respond to its needs or change is also needed.
I am confident in leaving EASA’s leadership in the hands of the current exec, and looking forward to re-joining the rank-and-file of the association and participating in new academic, activist and lobbying initiatives. With the pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will, we continue walking the walk.
University of Strathclyde
EASA New President’s Letter (Ana Ivasiuc, 2023-25)
Dear EASA members,
I start my first message to you by expressing what an immense privilege it is for me to serve anthropology and our community for the next two years. I am truly grateful for your vote of confidence and hope to rise to your expectations. I stepped up for election with a vision of support for our most precarious members, community building, commitment against the precarisation of our labour, and strengthening the voice of anthropology among the public. These topics found a broad resonance among our membership – and how could they not? We live in precarious times, from multiple points of view.
Our colleagues in the UK have undergone substantive pay cuts in real terms, while their pensions have been slashed and their contracts further precaritised. Our Czech colleagues are preparing for strike as I write these lines, in protest against the endemic underfinancing of social science and humanity departments across the country; they can barely make ends meet. The same is true for Irish postgraduate workers, whose stipends are well below the minimum wage.
In Germany, a country that many EASA members call home, the response of the academic precariat (the Mittelbau) to the new draft law that worsens the pressure on early career academics while failing to create new professorships for them, has managed to put a halt to the plans of the Ministry of Education. Negotiations are taking place as we speak, and I hope that the strong #IchBinHanna movement will take seriously the criticism that some of our own members have expressed regarding the need to include the concerns of the most precarious academics – like those with a migration background – on their agenda.
In France, universities were at the forefront of protests against the reform of the pension system: the higher education trade unions were calling for industrial action at the beginning of March already. In the meantime, as we know, many French people have taken to the streets in protest.
These movements are important for us as a learned society whose membership is, to a large proportion, affected by precarity. I am committed to supporting the struggles of these national movements and to leveraging our status as European association to lead and shape the much-needed Europe-wide debate on academic precarity. The new executive committee is rallied around these aims, and we have much on our agenda.
Anti-precarity advocacy and concrete measures to support our most precarious members are not our only goal. We also want to amplify anthropology’s voice among the broader public and in the media, increasing the relevance of our discipline for contemporary societal challenges. We aim to continue the work of the previous executive committee on the website remake and develop communication tools that would increase the impact of our messages. In a world where regressive politics push for a return to essentialist categories of identity, anthropology’s message needs to sound loud and clear. For this, we also need to enhance cooperation among anthropologists in Europe. We want to further develop the conversation started by the previous executive committee on the involvement of national associations and the celebration of a Europe-wide anthropology day, among other initiatives.
Some of you will have noticed that we have been rather silent on social media so far. Starting in May, this will change: noting that communication is an important part of our community, we have decided to hire a communication specialist for our social media. Rowena Harding has joined us for an initial short term period of three months. She will also develop a training module that current and future network convenors can take in order to optimize the networks’ social media communication and reach a broader public. More information on this will follow in due time. For now, if you are on social media, remember to follow us: @EASAinfo on Twitter, and https://www.facebook.com/EASAinfo on Facebook.
We have just started a conversation about the need for EASA to have a clear, longer-term strategy that would outline, in concrete steps, how it can achieve its mission and its vision, given the strengths that it has developed along the years and its weaknesses, but also considering the current socio-political environment and the threats and potential opportunities it brings with it. This is a longer process in which we wish to involve our members in a bottom-up process where your ideas are welcome and valued.
We will be able to tell you more about this process and other, more concrete initiatives that are currently being debated within the new executive committee in the summer newsletter. Until then, I wish to shine a spotlight on the many fantastic initiatives of our networks for the current year, thank you for your involvement in making EASA a dynamic, powerful, and inspiring association, and wish you all the best.