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ISA Forum Comes to Austria

Going Local, Going Global

Inside Court of the University of Vienna. Photo by University of Vienna.

May 21, 2016

The local organizing committee welcomes sociologists from around the world to the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology in Vienna.

Next month, we, the local organizing committee will be welcoming you, the global community of the ISA, to the Third ISA Forum in Vienna. Besides inviting you to visit our website, we would like to highlight some of the ways in which the local and global will be interwoven at the Forum.

Going local: Insights into Austria’s everyday life and the history of sociology

We are honored and delighted to host the Third ISA Forum of Sociology at the University of Vienna, a university with strong traditions in philosophy and social science. For more than two years, the local organizing committee has been preparing to make the Forum a success, aided by collaborating Austrian universities and sociological institutes in Innsbruck, Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Vienna, and our colleagues in Hungary.

University of Vienna from the outside. Photo by University of Vienna.

We would like to welcome you to “go local” with us, to meet, to talk, and to be inspired by Vienna’s international atmosphere. In addition to the Forum’s official program, we encourage our guests to get to know each other and the hosting city and country better through an array of tourist and sociological tours and get-togethers.

Join us in visiting a traditional Viennese wine-tavern or in a walking tour of the city as part of our tourism activities. Among the highlights of our sociological tours will be two guided visits of the Marienthal museum in the nearby village of Gramatneusiedl – site of path-breaking research on Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal or “Marienthal: the sociography of an unemployed community,” in which Marie Jahoda, Paul Lazarsfeld and Hans Zeisel, back in the early 1930s, showed how unemployment destroys individuals and social life. Their findings and their method-mix have inspired a great deal of research, and are still impressive today.[1]

The sociological legacy of Vienna and Austria can only be understood within its greater historical and societal context. On the one hand we have the “Red Vienna” of the early decades of the last century. But on the other hand, later, hundreds of Austrian sociologists, including the abovementioned, were forced to flee Austria during the Nazi regime. Several posts reflecting on the history of fascism and its effect on Austrian sociology and society can be found on our ISA Forum blog.

Going global: The struggles for a better world

As sociologists hosting the Forum in Vienna, Austria and Europe, the ISA’s theme “Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World” and its agenda to build up a global sociology prompts us to reflect on the global and the local from our local perspective.

A profoundly international city, Vienna is located in the center of Europe; strong influences from neighboring countries can be found in the city’s culture, cuisine, and language. The city hosts several international institutions, including the House of the European Union and the Viennese UNO-City, supporting the Forum as a site for international discourse. Nevertheless, the theme of the ISA’s 2014 World Congress in Yokohama, “Facing an Unequal World”, still hasn’t lost its significance: as we invite sociologists from around the world to come together in Vienna, we must acknowledge the current challenges faced by Austria and Europe in assuming responsibility for equality, freedom, justice, democracy, and human rights. The war in Syria, catastrophes and poverty in large parts of the world – and the colonial and post-colonial capitalist history behind such developments – are again forcing people to escape and migrate.

Many Europeans have struggled for a better world through intensified protest and to support initiatives against violence and inequalities. But another path, conceptualizing Austria and Europe as a closed society, has been characterized by politics of exclusion, seeking to enforce boundaries and inequalities. The Forum will come to Vienna at a historic moment, when issues such as asylum, forced migration, and politics of integration challenge Europe’s societies, and right-wing movements are once again growing, linking up in their attempt to create a Europe closed to “non-Europeans” – a chilling parallel to an all-too-recent history.

Austria’s sociology is facing all of these issues and Austrian sociologists are strongly connected globally. These challenges and links are reflected in our plenaries, in which speakers from around the world will explore themes like “Facing the Multiple Crises in Europe and Beyond,” “Overcoming Boundaries and Polarizations between Centers and Peripheries,” and “Sociological Thought and the Struggle for a Better World.”

Last but not least the ISA and the local organizing committee have invited local and international publishers to present their books in the exhibition hall and to organize a publishers’ lounge, where authors of books of special sociological and public interest will discuss their work. The exhibition hall will also display information about the Austrian institutes of sociology, research foundations, and fellowship programs.

Come together at the ISA Forum

Over the last decade, ISA discussions have emphasized the need for sensitivity toward the interrelations of the global and the local. And, indeed, many contemporary local struggles are caused by global tendencies like the marketization of labor and nature, the transnationalization of work and politics, and far-reaching changes in statehood within dictatorships and democracies. When we will meet in Vienna in July all these issues will be on the agenda, and – following the example set by sociologists around the world – will be discussed in their global and local manifestations. The Forum offers the next opportunity to come together and to continue this global dialogue. Therefore: We welcome you from around the world to Vienna, Austria, Europe and to the Third ISA Forum of Sociology!

[1] See Richter, R. “The Austrian Legacy of Public SociologyGlobal Dialogue 5(4), December 2015.

Brigitte Aulenbacher, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, member of ISA Research Committee on Economy and Society (RC02), Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy (RC19), Sociology of Work (RC30), and Women in Society (RC32) and Vice-Chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the Third ISA Forum of Sociology, Vienna 2016 <Brigitte.Aulenbacher@jku.at>
Rudolf Richter, University of Vienna, Austria, member and former president of ISA Research Committee on Family Research (RC06) and Chair of the LOC of the Third ISA Forum of Sociology <rudolf.richter@univie.ac.at>
Ida Seljeskog, University of Vienna, LOC of the Third ISA Forum of Sociology

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