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Engaging with fellow sociologists

The XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, held from June 25 to July 1, 2023 in Melbourne, shows a fresh start for an international sociological conference after the pandemic. With a massive 70-ish parallel sessions and an estimated 3000 participants from various different countries all around the world, it seems that the 'new-er' normal has taken its shape. The reason why this 2023 conference feels so big and tight is that it's not only attended in-person, but also accommodating hybrid meetings through Zoom. I have never felt this hyped before in my years of attending conferences - so many fascinating papers in so little time and being piled up on another. On the one hand, there's so much potential in this kind of meeting. On the other hand, cramping loads of papers in just seven days can be quite overwhelming and unfair for those coming in person as well as those online. I noticed that sometimes those in Zoom got rather lost and neglected amid the vibrant discussions in the room, or being forced to keep up in the middle of their night. I guess we are not yet ready for such a conference arrangement - or perhaps it's the technology that doesn't meet our expectations.


RC40 organized several sessions as well, including:

List of RC40 sessions

Food and Social Change (I, II, and III)

Food systems shocks and food security vulnerabilities: moving beyond business as usual (I and II)

Agri-food sustainability in a Post-COVID world

Exploring the emerging landscape of agtech innovation: venture capital, intermediaries, and the limits of "green capitalism"

Good farm animal welfare in sustainable food systems

Sociology of agriculture and food roundtables


Steven Wolf chairing and presenting in one of RC40-organized sessions


In addition to the sole-organized sessions, RC40 also collaborated with other RCs to hold interdisciplinary sessions, such as:

List of RC40's joint sessions

(RC40, RC07-Futures Research): Alternative food futures: connecting research with citizen politics (I, II (RC40, RC17-Organizations): Organizing through standards and value hierarchies (RC40, RC17-Organizations, RC24-Environment and Society, TG04-risk and uncertainty): Accountability and sustainable transitions: toward an integrated analysis of sociopolitical and ecological risks (I and II) (RC40, TG10-Digital): Extending critical approaches to agtech and foodtech: dialoguing insights from the insides and outsides of technology design projects (RC40, RC47-Social Classes & Social Movements): The potential of food movements and intersectional food inequalities

Over the first few days, I limited myself to those sessions that were organized by RC40, for reasons like coping with my own anxiety of presenting my papers, (re-)familiarizing myself with RC40 colleagues, supporting friends in their sessions, or just being too overwhelmed with so many things all at once. By the second-to-last day, I began to reach out to the uncharted territories: watching a vigorous debate in RC34 on youth in the global south questioning the colonial nature of scientific paradigms, or listening to discussions on the discrimination experienced by indigenous communities in the criminal justice system. I wondered how far this discourse has been integrated into our own (RC40's) research agendas. I'm sure it has.


Anyway, a special note on RC40 business meting: a joyful event, particularly amid the tight and exhausting sessions before. Listening to what the group has achieved during Steven Wolf's presidency (2018-2023), and what will follow in Katharine Legun's period (2023-2027), I personally put high hopes for RC40 to facilitate more engagements among its members, but also with other scientific communities across ISA (and beyond). Suggestions such as improved communications and promotions, mentoring programs for PhD and early career scholars, regional meet-ups, and more ways to connect to members, are absolutely do-able. We are of course waiting for more ideas, as well as helping hands to realize them together.


If you have any reflections, insights, suggestions and hopes to move forward, feel free to drop your comments below!




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