Critical Insurrections: Decolonizing Difficulties, Activist Imaginaries, and Collective Possibilities

The 4th Critical Ethnic Studies Association Conference

June 21-24th, 2018

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Unceded Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh, and Squamish Territory

Hosted by the Critical Racial and Anti-Colonial Studies (CRACS) Research Network and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at UBC


We are in a moment in which the activist and scholarly work of Critical Ethnic Studies is at once urgently relevant, life-sustaining, and more under attack than ever. The apparent global ascendancy of state-sanctioned hatred and violence against Black, Indigenous, Muslim, immigrant, queer, trans, and disabled communities - targeting women and genderqueer folks of all these communities in particular ways - makes it clear that we have a lot of work to do. Many of us are doing this work, and have long been doing this work. Still, we see how much there is to do. In this context, we call for proposals that relate to the theme of Critical Insurrections: Decolonizing Difficulties, Activist Imaginaries, and Collective Possibilities.

With this theme, we seek to signal the urgency of rising up together against unjust violence and the necessity to reflect, learn and advance how we organize. As inspiring and meaningful as activist work can be, organizing is difficult - in many senses. The work requires long, often unpaid and unacknowledged hours; the work is persistently gendered; the work is stymied by conflicts in personalities and ideologies. It is a kind of work that is beyond institutional and individual delineations of labor and is instead a lived practice. Such work challenges us to imagine ways of being with ourselves and with others in spaces and in manners, of which we are often not meant to commence together. By June 2018, the date of the conference, we expect much cross-community work across a range of urgent, global issues has already happened, and is happening. We imagine the conference as a space to reflect on that work, in all its thorns and roses. We want to come together to imagine both a different world and a different way of bringing that world into being. We want to push our activist imaginaries and scholarly practices in new directions to think more boldly and generously about the praxis of decolonization.

Thinking through heteropatriarchy, racialization, and colonialism on what is now Canada's West Coast requires a recognition of Indigenous, Asian, Black, and immigrant of colour histories of the region. In alignment and solidarity with Indigenous self-determination movements, we acknowledge that the campus is located in Vancouver, BC, Canada on unceded Musqueam, Coast Salish lands. It also requires attention to the continued efforts of activists, community organizers, teachers, writers, fundraisers, service providers, artists, and other members of the community who engage in decolonial practices in and around Vancouver.

The current ascendency of a variety of forms of conservativism, neo-fascism, and militarism across the globe leads us to think through the complexities associated with the work of decolonization. Such critical work envisions the future by identifying the colonial legacies, ideologies, and practices that need undoing: what is not working. Out of what we know is not working, we must build a different future, different ways of relating to each other, different worlds. This approach is dedicated to an intellectual and thus social practice of being closer, of organizing together, and hearing the kinds of words state apparatuses never want us to say to each other. The difficulty of decolonization emerges in the magnitude and limits of the term as an imperative to solve the concrete ethical questions of ethnicity, race, and power.

We are asking that we have the really difficult conversations about what alliance means (and if it is what we mean when we are building these relationships), about why we are not always better allies to one another, about how we have failed, about how we will get things wrong while doing this work together but how we can work to still be together. To put it another way, we want to take a hard look at the ways that even those of us who believe in a critical ethnic studies can at times reproduce racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, colonialism and more. We want to share ways of practicing self-reflection and collective building that do not assume, even if we see ourselves as “critical,” that we are above or over any of the conditions we are fighting against.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to organize this conference and hope that you will gather with us. At the 2018 Conference we will work to hope to foster dialogue on what parts of decolonial theory, activism, and art are working and how we can leverage our collective gains for long-term changes to a system marked by interminable threat. Towards strengthening the transformative power of Critical Ethnic Studies and other politicized fields such as African, Caribbean, Equity, Social Justice, Diaspora, Critical Race, Native, Trans, Feminist, Queer, and Disability Studies, this call for proposals invites academics, activists, and artists to join us in Vancouver to think through our own shared and divergent difficulties.



June 21 - 5:30PM-7PM

June 22 - 6:30PM-7:45PM
The Nest

Glen Coulthard
Annette Henry
Love Intersections
Students for the Salish Sea
Mercedes Eng

Saidiya Hartman
Dylan Rodriguez
John Marquez
Larissa Lai

June 23 - 6:30PM-7:45PM
The Nest

June 24 - 9AM-10:15AM
The Nest

Robin Kelley
Jack Halberstam
Dory Mason
Cecily Nicholson

Sherene Razack
Maile Arvin
Tiffany Willoughby-Herard