From Tuesday through Saturday last week I attended the 52nd annual conference of the International Studies Association (ISA) in Montreal. The theme for this year’s event was Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition.
What does that mean? I still can’t say. But I can attest that this meeting represents one of the very rare occasions during which living legends such as Joseph Nye, Stanley Hoffman and Thomas Schelling can be seen and heard in the same general place and time. Moreover, they represent only the more recognized figures among the thousands of experts and specialists on hand.
Although dominated by participants from the USA, the conference also attracts scholars from Canada, Europe, the UK, Oceania and elsewhere around the globe. International relations is by far the most common of the disciplines represented, but economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and many others – including government officials, consultants and NGO representatives – attend as well. If it’s a subject of academic enquiry, international in scope, and communicated in the English language, then chances are you’ll find it at the ISA.
The event program looks and reads like a telephone book. Four times a day for four days, beginning at 8:15AM and ending at 6:00PM, 100 or so panels run simultaneously. While exhausting, this is a guarantee of almost limitless choice, and if one promising discussion falls flat, there are endless fall back possibilities.
Each panel is organized under the auspices of one of the various “sections” of the ISA – International Security, Foreign Policy Analysis, Political Economy, Intelligence, Development, and so forth. For networking, contact development, and most of all as a way to obtain a snapshot of leading edge thinking about just about anything international, nothing compares to dining out at this brain food buffet.