SASS Is Also a Centenarian

By Lavery, Jason | Scandinavian Review, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

SASS Is Also a Centenarian

Lavery, Jason, Scandinavian Review

The ASF shares its centenary year with another venerable Scandinavia-oriented institution-the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies. At SASS's 101st annual academic conference last April outgoing president Jason Lavery delivered a welcome address entitled "Scandinavian Studies: The Past 100 Years, The Next 100 Years." Here are excerpts from that speech.

OVER THE LAST CENTURY, THIS SOCIETY HAS DEVELOPED two great strengths: a commitment to building an ever inclusive scholarly community and a dedication to publishing high-quality scholarship.

SASS members have made their society a vibrant support network for fellow scholars in Scandinavian studies. This function of SASS is more important to its members than to members of most other similar scholarly societies. Most of the members of SASS do not hold positions in departments of Scandinavian, but rather in departments such as foreign languages, history, English or comparative literature. Many active members of SASS work outside of universities in such capacities as museum curators, professional translators, and independent scholars.

Of the thirteen members of the society's current Executive Council, only five hold positions in. departments of Scandinavian. For the majority of SASS members, this society is its Scandinavian department, the institutional framework for its scholarly activity in Scandinavian Studies. Such a framework provides an important resource when a member must justify her or his activities in a daily work environment that does not specialize in Scandinavian studies.

We might be tempted to believe that this commitment to inclusive community stems from our desire to apply to SASS the values that we encounter when we study Scandinavia, such as consensus, egalitarianism and flexibility for difference. We should also consider less scholarly and lofty explanations. Our commitment to an inclusive community stems from the collective recognition that we work in a small scholarly field. We cannot afford to be too exclusive and survive. We're realists. We realize that we're alJ we've got.

Most members of this society have experienced this spirit of inclusive community primarily at the annual conference. This inclusiveness is evident in the diversity of panels, presentations, and meetings of various groups within the society, such as the Women's Caucus, the Society of Historians of Scandinavia, the Sámí caucus, the Ibsen Society, ASTRA, NORTANA, the Finnish caucus, and many others. We also grow our community through our dedication to developing the next generation of scholars. The society's President's Grants support the travel of graduate students to the annual conference. The society awards Aurora Borealis Prizes for the best papers presented by graduate students at the conference. The Society of Historians of Scandinavia, an organization affiliated with SASS, gives an award for the best graduate-student paper in history. The society supports dissertation research through its Birgit Baldwin Fellowship and Einar Haugen Scholarship.

This desire for inclusiveness has made this conference the premier annual international meeting in Scandinavian Studies. In recent years, the number of participants from outside of the United States has grown significantly, despite the increased difficulties over the last decade encountered by foreign scholars who wish to enter this country.

SASS has sought to expand its community by seeking cooperation with other scholarly organizations. In 2005, SASS joined the American Council of Learned Societies.

The most significant benefit from membership in ACLS so far has been that it has facilitated the establishment of close ties with the American Association of Baltic Studies. Last year SASS had its first joint conference with AABS in Seattle. Despite the great inconveniences caused by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, the leadership of both societies deemed the conference enough of a success to try it again. …

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