Skip to main content

Reflections on the #EUSEA24 conference by our new president, Kenneth Skeldon.

Travelling back from Tbilisi, I kept thinking how different it felt compared with previous EUSEA conferences. A big reason was the local situation, where huge demonstrations on the Georgian Government’s controversial ‘Foreign Agent’ law were ongoing. This law passed while we were there and made the opening keynote from Ilia State University’s Professor Giga Zedania all the more powerful. Giga passionately connected the conference’s theme of ‘Identity’ with the national conversations. To us, the feelings of local people felt pervasive, not only in the conference setting but also in hotels, bars, and restaurants.

Another reason the conference felt special was the diversity of people attending, comprising a mix of familiar faces and many new ones. I saw a greater mix of scholarly and practitioner-led sessions, and more postgraduate researchers, and I loved the new ‘early career’ takeover concept for the Day2 keynote. Because of the local situation, we, as a conference ‘family’, stayed closer together, which meant more quality time with new friends and colleagues.

Given the conference’s organisational rollercoaster, the relationship with the local team—especially the amazing Ana and Salome—was particularly strong. I felt mixed emotions coming away: sad because our new friends still had a difficult struggle ahead, but also uplifted because of the spirit and determination we saw, which left me thinking that, even if not tomorrow, positive change must surely come.

Finally, I will, of course, always remember Tbilisi as the place where EUSEA members put their trust in me to be their next President, following the wonderful Cissi Askwall. This huge honour rounded off a very special conference for me. I hope the enthusiasm to grow and strengthen new connections will shine through for the EUSEA family moving forward, including next year in La Palma.