Privileged Participation: EASP 2014 In Review

I have been abroad a fair bit for research this year. From 9-12th July this year, I attended the European Association of Social Psychology’s triennial conference in Amsterdam. This conference is always impressive. This year, it was bigger than ever before with over 1 400 delegates, from within and outwith Europe, and four full days of  twelve parallel sessions to choose from. Added to that were twice-daily poster sessions with over 100 posters apiece. I was privileged before I had started, to be going as not all submissions are accepted.

And I was glad that I went. The sheer range of sessions meant that there was always something of interest, if not of direct relevance to my research, on offer (and often it was the case that I had to choose between two or more directly relevant presentations). Social identity was writ large here, its applications spanning ever further –  from physical to mental health, sexual orientation to gender identity, emotion regulation to morality. That, as well as cutting edge looks at the usual suspects: collective action and intergroup contact to name but a few.

The meta-contact was, as ever invaluable. Great conversations were had over coffee, and at the conference dinner, there was ample opportunity to catch up with old colleagues, and to spark new connections.   

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Maybe the important thing here is that social psychology makes social identities visible. The privileges of being European, of being educated, of being from that social class, that ethnicity, along with the differences between being male or female, or transgender, heterosexual or LGBT+, are studied. Privilege is scientifically demonstrated. You cannot attend this conference and not leave with a sense of just how much social groups matter. And I was proud of the way in which social psychology is moving forwards to uncover identities that are often otherwise erased by society.

I was also pleased with the way in which the “green” agenda ran through the conference. Although, maybe this is where I need to make the conference team aware of their own privilege. A privilege of not having a physical disability. It was a green decision, no doubt, not to have conference bags. But, when you can only use one hand, some fore-warning of this would have been helpful.  We still had things to carry, after all. It would also have been useful to have coffee breaks every morning and afternoon – if only to give time for swapping between conference sites between sessions. The buildings of Amsterdam are gorgeous, but cobbled streets and bicycle jungles don’t make for the easiest of passages. I had to forget plans to change destination in the midst of sessions at the outset.

But this is a small point, for next time. Because I will be back next time. This is the social psychology conference not to miss.

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