Report from the 4th SASE Ibero-American Socio-Economics Meeting

For over five hundred years, Spain, Portugal, and the countries of Latin America have shared an intense history, politics, and culture. The Ibero-American region is the outcome of this connection, and not exempt from conflicts. With such heterogeneous national realities, the topics of international integration and varying development paths have been fruitful for scholars of socio-economics in the region, who critically address the validity and transformations of these North-South contrasts. The SASE Ibero-American regional meetings have highlighted these topics since 2013. By sponsoring this kind of periodic regional meeting, SASE expands the space of circulation for academic production in socio-economics. We thank Santos Ruesga, Julimar da Silva, and SASE Past President Akos Rona-Tas for their comments on the conference, on the origins of SASE-RISE, and on their expectations for the future.


The 4th SASE-RISE was held in the city of Heredia, near San José, the capital of Costa Rica, at the National University of Costa Rica, from 20-22 November 2019. More than 200 researchers from Latin America, Spain, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea met to discuss their research in more than twelve thematic roundtables, organized in nine parallel working sessions, as well as keynote lectures, panel discussions, and more. To access the general program, click here.

This year’s theme was “Productive Transformation, Territorial Asymmetries and Social Exclusion in Ibero-America.” Problems discussed included the impacts of contemporary capitalist exploitation on Latin American societies in general and the production of territorial inequalities in particular. According to Professor Rona-Tas, “While many topics overlapped with the themes discussed at the 2019 SASE meeting in New York, the conference in Costa Rica reflected a distinctly different set of concerns.” One of the central issues was the exclusion/inclusion of peripheral workers as a consequence of the fluidity and flexibility of economies and the concentration in large agglomerations. According to Professor Da Silva, “The roundtables dealt with this general theme in various aspects: political, institutional, fiscal, monetary and financial, productive, poverty, immigration, and humanitarian.”

Although they covered diverse topics, the keynote lectures recalled the tension between global logics of economic governance and unequal local contexts. For instance, Doctor Ennio R. Céspedes and Doctor Fernando G. Laxe described the importance of infrastructure for territorial cohesion and development and the new policy challenges presented by the data economy; Doctor Enrique Dussel Peters discussed the importance of Chinese-Latin American relations and their evolution; Professor Rona-Tas addressed the upheavals in democratic stability and human rights produced by predictive technologies; and Professor Santos Ruesga described the informal economy in Latin America and its effects on social exclusion and development.

Network M and the beginnings of SASE-RISE

SASE-RISE is strongly intertwined with Network M, which gathers the members of SASE who publish in Spanish. Currently, Network M brings together more than 50 members hailing from or interested in Latin countries. It is organized by Professors Santos Ruesga and Julimar da Silva Bichara, both from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

On the occasion of the annual SASE meeting in Madrid 2011, Professors Ruesga and da Silva expressed their concern about the low participation of Ibero-Americans in previous years. Committed to promoting that year’s event among their colleagues, they established Network M and start planning the first SASE-RISE. In 2013, Professor Ruesga, then a member of the SASE Executive Council, raised the possibility of holding a regional meeting biannually to increase the inclusion of scholars in socio-economics from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries: “We thought that it would be interesting for SASE to make an additional effort in favor of a periodic meeting somewhere in the Ibero-American geography that would bring together those scientists, located in the field of socio-economics, and others who for various reasons could not attend the annual meetings.”

The aims of these reunions were threefold: to spread socio-economics as an analytical approach and research subject in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking academic spheres; to develop a network of researchers that would function as an infrastructure for these events and subsequent exchange; and, finally, to promote the quality of scientific production and publication in these countries.

Prior to this fourth edition in Costa Rica, meetings were held at the Universidad Autónoma de México (Mexico City, Mexico, 2013), at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2015), and at the Universidad Tecnológica Bolívar (Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 2017). More about these events is available here.

Further steps

What are the outcomes of these years of SASE-RISE? Can the initiative be taken as model for other regions?

According to Professor Ruesga: “At this stage of the project, the Ibero-American meeting has consolidated itself as a meeting of social scientists of Spanish and Portuguese language, which hosts, on average, more than two and a half hundred academics, with numbers rising… After the first meeting, in order to start the preparatory work for following meetings, preliminary workshops were held. In addition to laying the logistical and organizational foundations for the regional meetings, these workshops gave rise to a small group of scholars from the area of socio-economics, who discussed the topics as thematic axes of each meeting, established common research projects, and published together”.

For Professor Rona-Tas: “The personal interactions at these conferences are invaluable. I met many new colleagues and learned a lot both about their research and the larger context in which they practice their profession. I got a deeper understanding of Costa Rica, its economy, politics, and higher education. Being there, I also had the opportunity to discuss ideas informally, clarifying over coffee points I made in my lecture and reacting to my colleagues’ research. Had I participated remotely, none of this would have occurred.”

But there are some risks that arise from insularity, not only at an idiomatic level. As Professor Rona-Tas explained, while RISE does not drain participants from the Annual Meetings and could actually help to recruit for the SASE annual conference, it is important to be attuned to potential costs: “Intellectual fragmentation is a more difficult problem because there is a fine line between allowing intellectual diversity rooted in geographic differences on the one hand, and the balkanization of socio-economics on the other.” Nonetheless, SASE-RISE might provide a template for other regional meetings, for instance in Asia. But Rona-Tas recognizes that Latin America presents some distinctive features, including a common linguistic background, that are not available everywhere. Moreover, SASE-RISE relies on the entrepreneurial skills and determination of the individuals who organize it.

One option open to the SASE Executive Council is to hold a fifth edition of SASE-RISE in 2021, at the oldest university in the Americas, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru.

You can find photos from the 2019 SASE-RISE conference here.


Article by Florencia Labiano

This article is taken from the SASE Winter Newsletter 2019 – 2020. Click here to go back to the contents.