The Establishment of the International Rural Sociology Association:
A Brief Account
Glenn V. Fuguitt and Alvin L. Bertrand
January 25, 1999
The International Rural Sociology Association (IRSA) was an outgrowth of the desire for greater international cooperation on the part of the members of the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS) and the members of the Rural Sociological Society (RSS). The RSS was organized in 1936 and the ESRS in 1957. Formal expression of the need for an international professional association was first voiced at the 1962 annual meeting of the RSS in Washington, D.C. At that time a committee including representatives from the RSS and ESRS was established to develop the “international machinery” for planning a multi-national conference on rural sociology. The committee was named The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology. Its first members were E. W. Hofstee of the Netherlands (as chair), O. F. Larson of the U. S. (as vice-chairman), H. Kotter of the Federal Republic of Germany, H. E. Bracey of Great Britain, H. Kaufman and R. A. Polson of the U. S. It was understood, from the discussions and deliberations which preceded the establishment of the committee, that a permanent organization would be considered after the first conference (or congress), had been held.
The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology wasted no time in planning an international congress, and it was decided to hold a congress in 1964. An invitation from M. Cepede to meet in Dijon, France was accepted and he was put in charge of making the arrangements for the congress. At the time of the Dijon congress plans were made for a second congress. E. W. Hofstee’s invitation to hold the congress in Enschede, The Netherlands in 1968 was accepted and he was given the responsibility for planning and making the arrangements. The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology provided the leadership for program planning. The RSS representation on the Committee was changed in 1964, when President Lee Coleman appointed Al Bertrand, Paul Jehlik, and Harry Schwarzweller to replace the original RSS appointees.
During the time of the second world congress tentative plans were made for a third world congress. An invitation to host the congress was extended by the U. S. delegation. Members of the committee voted to accept the invitation and to elect Al Bertrand chair of the committee. Subsequently, the RSS voted to hold the third congress in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with Al Bertrand in charge of local arrangements.
At the time of the second world congress (1968) preliminary discussions for the formation of an international body were also initiated. Shortly after this meeting, in 1969, the Latin American Rural Sociological Association (ALASRU) was formed. The officers of the Association were immediately asked to nominate representatives to serve on The Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology. The committee held its next meeting at the time of the 1970 meeting of ESRS, in Munster, Germany. At this meeting there was an extended discussion of the constitutional requirements for an international association. The discussion was concluded with the appointment of a Preparatory Committee to complete the negotiations re the content of a constitution and to take other necessary steps for the formation of an International Rural Sociological Association. Members of the Preparatory Committee included the presidents of the three existent regional societies: Odd Grande from Norway (ESRS), Glenn Fuguitt from the U.S. (RSS), and Jose Pastore from Brazil (ALASRU). No chair was appointed, but Glenn Fuguitt agreed to serve as secretary. The agreement reached was that once a draft constitution was worked out by the Preparatory Committee, it would have to be ratified by each of the regional societies. At the meeting of the third world congress in Baton Rouge, it was decided to invite representatives from regions of the world where no professional association existed to serve on the Preparatory Committee. The individuals selected were: Bruce Crouch from Australia (representing Oceania), Gelia Castillo from the Phillippines (representing Asia), and E. B. E. Ndem from Zambia (representing Africa). The ESRS representation on the committee was changed from Odd Grande of Norway to Gwyn Jones from Great Britain in 1974.
Following the 1972 third world congress, the Committee for Cooperation ceased to exist, and planning responsibility for the fourth world congress was assumed by the Preparatory Committee, plus Al Bertrand, who served as a liaison from the previous Committee for Cooperation. The fourth congress was held in Torun, Poland, in August 1976.
During the period up to the fourth congress, the Preparatory Committee negotiated and submitted a draft constitution that was ratified by all three regional societies (ALASRU, ESRS and RSS) by early 1976. Procedures were included in the constitution for nominating and electing members to an IRSA Council. Each regional society was given autonomy to elect their representatives on the Council and a mail balloting process was worked out for Africa, Asia, and Oceania. A Council was duly elected by March 1976. The first action of the Council, in keeping with the mandates of the constitution, was the election of officers. This mail-ballot election was completed by August 1976, so that the officers elected were installed at the Fourth World Congress in Torun.. They were Glenn Fuguitt of the U. S. (President), Boguslaw Galeski of Poland (First Vice President), Jose Pastore of Brazil (Second Vice President), and Thomas Ford of the U. S. (Secretary). An executive committee was appointed which included Council members Gelia Castillo of the Phillipines, Bruce Crouch of Australia, and Cuthbert Omari of Tanzania as well as the officers. Other duly elected members of the Council included Al Bertrand of the U. S., Gwyn Jones of Great Britain, Herbert Kotter of Germany, Tetsuo Ninomiya of Japan, Jorge Ochoa of Argentina, Rudolpho Stavenhagen of Mexico, and Salah Yacoub of Lebanon.
To summarize, the precursor to the International Rural Sociology Association was the Committee for International Cooperation in Rural Sociology, which organized the first three world congresses. Formed in 1962, it was disbanded in 1972 and the fourth world congress was organized by the Preparatory Committee (1972-1976) which was established to set up the new organization. Following acceptance of the constitution by the three regional rural sociology societies in early 1976, elections for the council and officers were held and the first officers assumed their duties at the Fourth World Congress in Torun, Poland. Consequently the International Rural Sociology Association was established in August 1976. It serves an historical purpose to list the date, place, program chairs, and local arrangement chair for the first five international meetings of rural sociologists. The fifth congress was the first to be organized by the International Rural Sociology Association:
First World Congress for Rural Sociology
Date: August 16-20, 1964
Place: Dijon, France
Program Chair: E. W. Hofstee, The Netherlands
Local Arrangements Chair: M. Cepede, France
Second World Congress for Rural Sociology
Date: August 5-10, 1968
Place: Enschede, The Netherlands
Program Chair: E. W. Hofstee, The Netherlands
Local Arrangements Chair: A. K. Constandse, The Netherlands
Third World Congress for Rural Sociology
Date: August 22-27, 1972
Place: Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Program Chair: A. L. Bertrand, USA
Local Arrangements Chair: A. L. Bertrand, USA
Fourth World Congress for Rural Sociology
Date: August 9-13, 1976
Place: Torun, Poland
Program Chair: Glenn Fuguitt, USA
Local Arrangements Chair: Boguslaw Galeski, Poland
Fifth World Congress for Rural Sociology
Date: August 7-12, 1980
Place: Mexico City, Mexico
Program Chair: Jose Pastore, Brazil
Local Arrangements: Gustavo Esteva and Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Mexico.