Friday, 2 August 2013

Reflections on APIRA Kobe 2013

By Professor Jane Broadbent
Royal Holloway, University of London
Wow!  On Thursday 25th July 2013 we (Richard Laughlin and me) arrived to the biggest APIRA conference in its history, held in Kobe at their conference centre built on reclaimed land in the harbour.   A week of holiday taken before we arrived meant that we had seen Mount Fuji as well as surviving a week of organised confusion.  Everything seems to run to time in Japan, even given the volume of traffic in Tokyo.  Perhaps we were lucky? Once more, we were reminded of the terrible lack of language learning in the UK, we could only command a few very basic words to speed us on our way.  The confusion was much reduced by the kindness of the Japanese, and ‘Arigato’ – ‘thank you’- sums up my feelings for the trip, even in retrospect.

Kobe is a city that suffered a huge earthquake and the remains of this have been left in places to remind those of us who forget that the force of nature is far greater than that of the people who live on this earth.  Sadly the great Tsunami of March 2011 and indeed the Christchurch earthquake of February 2011 are more recent reminders that we take the environment for granted at our peril.  This reminder seems appropriate for a conference with a strong stream of papers in the Social and Environmental Accounting section. 

The conference was a BIG one in many ways.  It had more participants than ever and with 6 plenary sessions presented the conventional papers were packed in a broad range of well attended parallel sessions.  Catching up with friends, meeting new people was squeezed between sessions and inevitably it was not possible to attend all the papers that one might have chosen to simply because of session clashes.  The programme offered and abundance of riches!  Our social life suffered as a consequence and we spent too little time just talking to people.

It was a big conference for Richard Laughlin and myself as we were also launching our book Accounting Control and Controlling Accounting: Interdisciplinary and Critical Perspectives, published in May this year by Emerald, who also publish Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, the journal associated with the APIRA Conference.  We were given a session to present the arguments of the book and fabulous commentaries were provided by James Guthrie and Pala Molisa.  James is well known to most of us but Pala may not be.  He is an outstanding emerging scholar based at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.  Check out his paper presented at the conference.  Watch for him in the future!

The point of presenting the book at the conference was to provide a forum to launch the Broadbent and Laughlin Emerging Scholar Award.  This is being funded from the royalties of the book, held in trust for this purpose by Emerald and our advance royalties are such that we can be sure the prize will be presented in the next two APIRA Conferences as well.  The aim is to recognise outstanding emerging scholars contribution to research in accounting using interdisciplinary and critical approaches.  It was presented to Laure Celerier and Luis- Emilio Cuenca-Botey both studying for their PhDs at HEC in France.  Check out their excellent paper, but recognise that the award was not for the paper but to recognise the contributions we expect from these two emerging scholars.  Watch for them in the future as well.

In a very busy schedule we are incredibly grateful to the organisers for giving us so much space.  This was a great privilege.

So, what about the papers and the academic debates – the most important reason for being there.  For a SEA audience my commentary is perhaps limited as my engagement with the sessions was not comprehensive, given the difficult process of choosing where to go from a rich and varied programme.  However, some sessions I attended offered some great highlights.  For me the plenary by Jeffrey Unerman was a highlight, suggesting the need for more theoretical engagement in research in the community.   This is a suggestion I have a great deal of sympathy with.  It is also helpful to highlight the debates that were raised in one of the sessions that discussed various aspects of gender.  Would that we had more time to have debated these issues further on the day, but they are an important element of the SEA remit and hopefully will be debated further in the CSEAR arena.  Most immediately relevant was the paper by Kathryn Haynes and Alan Murray, looking at ‘’The Future Women Want’ - gender equality and sustainable development’.  This paper was an exciting development of the gender and the SEA debates and it was for me welcome for its radical edge.  This work is the result of direct engagement in praxis on the part of the authors as well as an engagement with a divers and radical literature.  I will not summarise it but recommend you to read it and take to heart the message of looking hard at how research might tackle the issue accounting can help in addressing the tensions and differences in approaching gender equality and sustainable development.

The importance of contextual understandings was highlighted by Komori’s paper on women’s role in the Japanese accounting profession.  Her arguments can only be understood with a strong understanding of Japanese culture.  This remains a lesson to be recognised in the context of SEA more generally and reminds us that the need to go beyond the interrogation of that which is reported in external reports. 

The final paper in this session presented by Pala Molisa,  ‘Accounting for Pornography, Prostitution and Patriarchy’ is a long and interesting if somewhat wayward paper!  If the social in SEA is to mean anything this theme must be addressed and this paper, which may well be several papers when it is taken forward is a great start. 

For me all these ideas are bold and interesting and are ones that the APIRA community and the SEA community must take seriously.  They offer some of the BIG ideas at a BIG conference. 

In three years time the APIRA Conference will be in Australia and even fewer of the attendees will be people we know.  This is really encouraging.  The abundance of new and interesting scholars that were present at this conference will take the interdisciplinary and critical accounting project forward with panache.  And they must do so if we wish to change the world for the better.

Jane Broadbent

1st August 2013


  1. Many thanks to Jane for very kindly agreeing to be a guest blogger!

  2. Nice article, thanks for the information. It's very complete information. I will bookmark for next reference
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