Dear SIEF colleagues,
Thank you for electing me as the new president of SIEF. For the General Assembly handover, SIEF has a proud tradition of literally “passing the baton” in the shape of a conductor’s stick. As the event was online this year, I borrowed my daughter’s Ginny Weasley magic wand from the Harry Potter universe. As you might recall, Ginny is the little sister of Ron, Harry’s best friend and, being a little sister myself, I thought this was a suitable stand-in for our ritual. Though, unlike Ginny, I did not grow up with six older brothers, I have still been toughened up by an older sibling.
Embarking on the role of president, I step into some very big shoes. Since 1964, we have had nine presidents, of whom two were women – Regina Bendix from 2001–2008 and Nevena Škrbić Alempijević from 2017 to 2021 – so we have a few more to go to reach a balance!
I would like to start by warmly thanking the outgoing Board and Presidency who have all served our society well over the past four years. A huge salute, too, to Hanna Snellman and her wonderful Helsinki team for organizing the very successful 2021 SIEF conference. With more than 1100 attendees, I think it is safe to say mission accomplished, and more. Apart from being academically stimulating, the conference was highly innovative not only in terms of online meeting formats, but also in modes of digital interaction. Personally, I was thrilled by the many companion species pictures in the photos section and Roger Norum’s excellent evocative films made our physical absence from lovely Helsinki a bit more bearable.
In the slipstream of the global pandemic, which has put much international collaboration and exchange outside of “Zoom-land” on hold, there is an urgent need for strengthening international networking. Furthermore, we are witnessing a growing politicization of research, along with growing attacks on researchers’ social media communications, in the form of trolling attacks, hate speech, and research bashing.
Thus, dear colleagues, we need SIEF more than ever. We need community, and we need solidarity in order to feel that we are not alone.
We are a large and vibrant society of ethnology and folklore scholars who stand together in the fight for securing and enhancing the critical role researchers play in society, and against any compromise to research freedom.
As a unique platform for intellectual exchange and international collaboration, the SIEF community offers a globe-spanning and still growing membership, the biannual international conference, 15 dynamic Working Groups, two flagship journals, Ethnologia Europaea and Cultural Analysis, both peer reviewed and Gold Open Access, the standing committee on higher education in ethnology and folklore which enables cooperation across the educational landscape of ethnology and folklore studies world-wide as visualized in the SIEF interactive map, and, last but not least, the SIEF Summer school and the SIEF Young Scholar Prize aimed at ensuring the continued inclusion and acknowledgement of Early Career scholars in our society and in our fields.
To be sure, the magic wand can do nothing in itself. There is no easy trick that automatically makes the SIEF community thrive. What Ginny and her friends can teach us, though, is that you need to have a good relationship with your magic wand, for it to work. As I embark on this new role, I will use this as a reminder that to nurture our SIEF community we need committed interpersonal work and ongoing clear communications to make magical things to happen.
Together with the new board I look forward to work on the continued furthering and strengthening of our scholarly fields and social connections.