Photo credits:
Stewen Quigley

SCAS News - 6 July, 2020

A Message from SCAS Principal Christina Garsten

The Principal's Note
6 July, 2020

A Note on Crises and Solidarity

As the spring semester of 2020 has come to an end, we are still living in the midst of the Corona pandemic.
The Covid-19 outbreak came with a number of new challenges: How to uphold and nurture a community
of fellows largely at a distance? How to cope with uncertainty and risk as ingredients in everyday scholarly
life? And how to find new ways of communicating and socializing across spatial distances?

With crisis come not only trauma and shock, but also new ways of navigating around restrictions, and new
inventions. We at the Swedish Collegium have, as have other institutes for advanced study in our international
networks, added a variety of forms of mediated communication to our repertoire.  By launching our new pod-
cast series, SCAS Talks, we are able to reach new listeners and engage in the pandemic crisis academically,
as it were, by inviting scholars from different disciplines to share their knowledge about the topic. The first
three podcasts can now be found on our website, featuring different voices on the pandemic from medical,
historical, and ideational perspectives.

Apart from the medical hazards associated with the disease, the pandemic has also given fuel to divisive
stereotyping around nationalities – something we do not need in times like these. With the spread of the
virus, national borders have been re-articulated and strengthened, human mobility has been severely re-
strained, and fabricated ethnic and cultural distinctions have been accentuated. The Covid-19 pandemic
has shown how fragile the global system is. The pandemic represents an unprecedented test of human
solidarity and of the ability of the transnational consciousness to stay alive and alert.

But the pandemic crisis has also shown how strong our global connectivity and consciousness are. The
academic community is inherently transnational, and during the last few months this has become evident
by the intensification of our international networks and web-based activities. There is certainly hope for a
strengthened and more cosmopolitan future.

The Covid-19 outbreak is not the only crisis we have seen this spring. From across the Atlantic, we also have
been witnessing profoundly disturbing incidents highlighting an equally alarming crisis: ongoing and institutiona-
lized racism toward African Americans. Sadly, these tragedies are reminders of the many oppressive structures
that hinder humans across the world to lead the lives they wish to live. They are found in all sectors of society,
and at all layers. We also recognize that structural racism, and other forms of discrimination, is evinced in our
academic institutions, in higher education, in access to faculty positions, to publication opportunities, and to
inclusion in academic networks.

As scholars, we have a responsibility to illuminate the mechanisms that enable structural inequalities—to
question oppressive governance regimes and economic logics, and to contribute to shedding light on societal
designs that allow for discrimination to continue. We also need to go beyond observation and study, and
beyond introspection, to commit to inviting diverse voices and forms of knowledge to be equally respected.

The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study is committed to ensuring equal rights and equal opportunities
for all individuals. Our institute rests on a belief that science has a significant role to play in contributing to a
democratic and inclusive future. As one step in this direction, we are launching a new fellowship programme,
the Barbro Klein Fellowship. As Deputy Principal at SCAS and Professor of Ethnology, Professor Klein
devoted her research to oral narration, rituals, museum displays and other forms of expressive culture in
complex multiethnic settings. She also worked on broad methodological issues and on the entangled discipli-
nary histories, with a persistent and clear view to the diversity of the human condition and predicament.

The Barbro Klein Fellowship Programme intends to advance the study of cultural diversity in a global
perspective. The fellowship is open to scholars from across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences,
with an emphasis on research on cultural and social diversity, cultural heritage and creativity, societal structures
and public resistance, and varieties of cultural expressions in local and global perspective.

We are proud to announce the first recipient of this Fellowship: Dr. Inan Özdemir Taştan, who has a PhD in
public relations from Ankara University. Her research project aims to analyze the use of media by governments
during the recent global authoritarian turn and the post-truth era. It investigates the way media work to legitimate
government policies, hide facts from the public and distort reality so as to undermine democratic accountability
under authoritarian regimes. Her research casts light on the role of governments in fostering or delimiting free-
dom of expression, the right of people to have access to information, the right and freedom to conduct academic
research, and the role of the public in fostering the democratic accountability of government.

As we move through this phase of crises and containment, we must plan for recovery and openness. This requires
careful consideration of how and when to gradually ease restrictions, based on the evidence and information we
have at our hands, but also learning to live with ‘a new normal’. In the emerging new society, science, critical and independent thinking, informed and engaged discussions, and transnational solidarity are as important as ever.