It’s the twilight of summer here in North America and we are anticipating the beginning of our autumn/winter university terms. As well, this very day, we are preparing to witness a rare event: the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse for North America since 1979, also causing a partial eclipse in parts of Latin America and the UK. We only have 85% viewing here in Canada, but clear skies are predicted. Moments like this make me feel gratitude for having the time and space to revel in this event with my children and neighbours. It also makes me think of the dangers of assuming what Canadian communication scholar Jody Berland terms a “colonial spatiality”—assuming a north-centered perspective of the world. It makes me recall that in other parts of the world, there is no eclipse, it’s not summer, and in most places, no on-hand, leftover cereal boxes, aluminum foil, internet instructions, and spare time to make one’s personal eclipse-viewing theatre. Today is a treat for us in North America but elsewhere there are different realities.
This kind of thinking is not meant to be a buzzkill, but a reality check for us as members of a large and diverse globe. With that seasonal shift in mind, your past ICA presidents and regional ICA members have been busy planning our next opportunities to engage underrepresented parts the world in ICA’s community. This work is often invisible and unrecognized, and I thus want to share with you the organizers’ efforts to create these unique ICA events. Following the third year of their 5-year term, your Past Presidents take on the task of regional conference planning. This entails site and local team creation, ongoing administrative and organizational support in planning (from conference theme and calls, to haranguing reviewers, session planning, etc.), and finally, in-person participation and cofacilitation of the events. At the same time, numerous regional members on the ground are busy obtaining permissions, sponsors, speakers, organizing venues and conference materials, and more to ensure the events are successful and have broad participation—labour that is tireless and often unrecognized.
In the coming “term” we have two large regional events occurring—one in Uganda and the other in India. The first is a regional research and publication workshop in Entebbe, Uganda, facilitated by the indefatigable Sr./Dr. Land of Daystar University (who organized our first ICA Africa regional conference only one year ago, in October 2016), with assistance from Amy Jordan, myself, and a large regional organizing team. The call went out in summer, and we now have over 125 proposed extended abstracts from participants. Over 20 of your ICA colleagues have volunteered, and are self-funding their trips, to serve as comentors. The enthusiastic regional organizing group in Entebbe is busily preparing to host us at Uganda Martyrs University, to immerse us in their academic community.
At the same time, Dr. Mira K Desai, Dr. Binod C Agrawal and Prof. Shashikala Wanjari are busy organizing a South Asian Regional Conference in Mumbai, India in December, assisted by a large, regionally representative committee and by past presidents Peter Vorderer, Francois Hendryxck, and Peng Awa Ang. Entitled “Communications Research in the Digital Age,” the event will be hosted by SNDT (Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey) Women’s University. The conference is attracting a host of Indian scholars new to ICA as well as regional scholars and has received a strong number of proposals; more information is available at https://sndt.ac.in/upcoming-event/2017/ica-asia-regional/organising-team.htm
I am always enthused by the numbers of current ICA members who flock to regional conferences to learn from regional scholars, expand their research networks and open the doors of ICA to new members. This organization continues to drive forward toward greater inclusion and diversity. A special word of thanks to our hard-working local organizing committee members—we recognize and appreciate your efforts! We are looking forward to the publications, outcomes and networks arising from these historic events, and to our next engagements in these regions.