Always Meet Your Heroes: Reflections on ISA 2023

Ben Rosher |

One of the most profound but under-appreciated impacts of the Covid pandemic on Early Career Researchers (ECRs) is that we simply have not had the opportunity to find “our people” – the ones who are so integral for socialising us into academia, for accompanying us through the confusing terrain and showing us the hidden rooms. Our people are the kindred spirits who help us find our voice and develop our approach to research and the world.

Years of cancelled and online conferences have meant that we have not had the opportunity to meet other ECRs and established scholars in our field in person. And so, it was with a generous microgrant from UACES, that I packed my bags and headed off to the 2023 International Studies Association (ISA) conference in Montreal where, as fortune would have it, I essentially managed to meet the entire bibliography of my thesis [1].

To give some context, ISA is the largest international studies conference in the world. It is MASSIVE – 5,500 attendees from across the globe (though much more work needs to be done to help those who require visas to attend), present at several hundred panels, organised across three hotels over four days. It is easy for a first timer to get burned out and overwhelmed (I did). I attended innovative insightful talks ranging from migration and borders, through ontological security, to solar geoengineering and patent mapping.

These panels and presentations are, of course, important. But being able to meet these people outside of the confines of a panel and hear more about their work more candidly; to arrange drinks and dinners to sit and bounce around nascent thoughts with people working in similar (and sometimes completely different) areas as me has helped me clarify my ideas, (re)orient myself within my discipline, and move my research forward. Conversations with both established and early career ontological security scholars have helped in my thinking around contingency and temporality in particular and given me renewed focus and engagement with my thesis.

On a more human level (which is all too frequently overlooked in institutional academia), we need these kinds of encounters to develop our support networks. Academia can notoriously be a very lonely place and being able to meet our people is utterly vital in helping ECRs survive and thrive in this world.

Maybe the real ISA is the friends we made along the way.


[1] This line was shamelessly stolen from Lauren Rogers (@rogerslkay)



About the UACES Microgrant:

The UACES Microgrant scheme is aimed at supporting research for our Early-Career and Individual Members.

The microgrants scheme will provide grants of between £100 and £500 to UACES members to assist them to cover the costs of undertaking their research. The grants are designed to recognise the challenges facing researchers at this time.

Next application deadline: 31 July 2023.