Professor Indrajit Roy

Few things excite academics more than a conference where they can meet fellow academics. When it is a conference that promises to assemble over 2500 delegates from around the world, the excitement heightens. And if it is in a city that blends history and culture the way Buenos Aires does, that excitement knows no bounds. So, when the International Political Science Association announced that its 2023 World Congress in Buenos Aires, students of politics the world over went into a tizzy! I was fortunate, and privileged, to be nominated to represent the PSA at the World Congress, and to be nominated at the IPSA Executive Committee as a representative of our learned society.

IPSA was founded in 1949 under the aegis of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Emerging from the ruin caused by two devastating World Wars, its constitution mandates it to “support the development of political science in all parts of the world, building academic networks linking East and West, North and South”. Its aim- as relevant today as it was when it was founded on the debris of colonialism, fascism and imperialism- is to create an inclusive and global political science community in which all can participate. It seeks to promote collaboration between scholars in emerging and established democracies and to support the academic freedoms needed for the social sciences to flourish, an ambition that couldn’t be more timely given the worldwide erosion of democratic freedoms. The PSA was founded a year later in 1950, as Britain sought to rebuild itself in the wake of the Second World War and the collapse of its empire. It is today a “collective member” of the IPSA which brings with it several benefits that include voting rights in the IPSA Council.

The buzz in Buenos Aires was striking. Many of us were returning to in-person conferences for the first time in three years. And so, despite a 15-hour flight at the end of which my luggage did not turn up, I was thrilled to be amidst almost 3000 people from every inhabited continent on the planet and featured speakers from Australia, Canada, Chile, France, India, the United States, Uruguay and, of course, Argentina. The conference theme was “Politics in the age of transboundary crisis” and the myriad panels provoked participants to think critically about the narratives, policies and practices that have shaped contemporary global challenges and people’s responses to it. The conference was hosted by the Universidad Católica Argentina, located at the beautiful Puerto Madero waterfront where abandoned warehouses tangoed with soaring skyscrapers to tell the story of the city’s tumultuous political economy. The Casa Rosada, the Pink Palace that is the official workplace of Argentine presidents since the inception of the republic, is a short walk away. The balcony from where Eva Peron made her impassioned 1946 speech urging the people to support her husband Juan Peron, and which became the basis of the iconic “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” sung by Madonna for the musical Evita, remains a huge attraction for the public. Viewing the sunset at the Obselisco de Buenos Aires, amidst downtown street scenes, will be a memory I will forever cherish. Far from a distraction, the city’s attractions helped us recharge from a necessarily packed conference schedule and prepare for more animated conversations over dinner, drinks, and panels.

During my meetings at the IPSA Council and subsequently in the IPSA Executive Committee, I was personally quite moved by the regard with which colleagues held the PSA as a learned society. That the PSA’s nominees to the IPSA (two colleagues of Turkish origin and my Indian nationality) defied the stock image many have of British society added a layer of curiosity. Much of the high respect colleagues harboured for the PSA stemmed from our learned society’s commitments and practices to achieve equality. The IPSA Gender and Diversity Monitoring Report, shepherded by my much-loved predecessor Professor Umut Korkut, featured some of these commitments and practices as examples from which the IPSA could benefit in terms of institutionalising multiple forms of diversity. These practices include the PSA co-funding a 2021 study that eventually produced the Career Trajectories in UK Departments of Politics and International Relations Report. The work of the EDI Working Group within the PSA, the piloting of Diverse Voices to support doctoral students and early career researchers from backgrounds underrepresented in our discipline, and the naming of “mainstream prizes” after women (rather than white men) were highlighted in the report as good practices that could enrich IPSA.

My participation at IPSA, ranging from presentation of my own work on China’s growing global footprint (supported, incidentally, by the PSA’s Pushing the Boundaries Grant back in 2018, but that’s a story for another time) to meeting old friends and making new ones and attending Council and Committee meetings convinced me of the benefits of our ongoing collaboration. Looking ahead, IPSA’s 2025 World Congress will be held in Seoul with a focus on Resisting Autocratisation in Polarised Societies. It is an opportunity for PSA colleagues to leverage their individual and collective expertise on a timely topic that shifts attention from the despair of autocratisation to the hope that something can be, and is being, done about it. As your representative to IPSA, I can’t wait to help making the IPSA WC 2025 a success. Watch this space!

Author Biography

Indrajit Roy, a Trustee of the Political Studies Association and Professor at the Department of Politics & International Relations at the University of York, has a rich background in the development sector and holds a doctoral degree in development studies from the University of Oxford.