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

Deadline for Proposals Extended: December 4, 2017 11:59 PST

Notification: February 2018

We are excited to announce the call for proposals to the 2018 Critical Ethnic Studies Association conference hosted in Vancouver by The Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia from June 21st-24th, 2018.

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.

Submissions on a wide range of topics that may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Histories and contemporary analysis of activist movements / organizing for social justice and/or decolonization
  • Anticolonial discourses and practices
  • Theories of the Human, Black Life, and Women of Color Feminisms
  • Women of color, trans*/queer of color, and/or Indigenous women and Two-Spirit leadership in, and/or critiques of, social justice and decolonization movements
  • Practices of allyship, accomplices, mutual recognition, and relationality
  • Legalities, Sexuality, and Intimacies
  • Trans*, Queer and Feminist of Color Engagements with Safety, Policing, and Prisons
  • Journalism, Stories, Testimonials, and Ethnographic Writing
  • Ethnic Studies Pedagogies with Youth both in and outside of K-12 and higher education
  • Writing As Activist Practice/ Poetics in Community Organizing
  • Gender Violence, Land, Water, Indigenous and WOC Feminisms
  • Settler Colonialism, Contract, and Citizenship
  • Disability, Queer Theory, Affect
  • Personhood, Love, and Colonialism
  • Environment and the Anthropocene
  • Science and Racial Violence
  • Settlement, Resolution, and Occupation
  • The Speculative, Voice, and the Digital
  • Digital activism including, Black Twitter, Indigenous Twitter, Feminist Twitter
  • Poetics, Social Movement, Writing
  • Re-centering the Land, Relationship, and the Earth
  • Radical Practices of Self-Care and Organizing
  • Sanctuary, Immigration, and Freedom Cities


PROPOSAL GUIDELINES: We recommend presentation formats that encourage participation, collaboration, and creativity. We will prioritize proposals by people doing critical work in their own communities, and proposals that take care not to reproduce “expert” colonial knowledges. We welcome proposals that support participation for various abilities, bodies, learning styles, and experiences.

Submissions of non-translated sessions in languages other than English are welcome.  We recognize the importance of ensuring accurate and representative interpretation, and thus encourage applicants in this category to be in conversation with the conference team on co-ordinating translation.

ASL interpretation, wheelchair access, and gender-neutral washrooms will be available.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: The deadline to submit and edit a proposal is December 4, 2017 11:59 PST . 

WHO CAN SUBMIT A PROPOSAL: We encourage proposals by community members, social justice organizers, cultural workers, activists, students, academics, independent scholars, teachers, media makers, human rights advocates, and anyone interested in analyzing the conditions of our work, lives, and struggles.

Proposals should address how presenters will connect to the theme of Critical Insurrections: Decolonizing Difficulties, Activist Imaginaries, and Collective Possibilities. Proposed sessions should encourage participation, collaboration, and creativity through a variety of formats; and strive to be accessible to a diverse audience of emerging leaders, researchers.  To ensure the active involvement of CESA’s members, constituency, and the broader social justice community, an individual or group may not submit more than two proposals.

FORMATS: We invite panels, interactive workshop, and individual paper submissions on a wide range of topics that may include, but are not limited to, the conference themes. We recommend presentation formats that encourage participation, collaboration, and creativity. Proposals may include performances, interactive workshops, open discussions, roundtables, films, activist studios, academic papers, panels, strategy sessions, learning labs, writing salons, and others.

PROPOSAL CATEGORIES:  We invite submissions by individuals and/or groups in the following categories:

  • Paper Submission: [individual]  Individual presentations on organizing, activism, research, or scholarship. Three or four individual paper submissions on related topics will be combined into panels. Panels will be 90 minutes, with each presentations being 10 – 15 minutes in length to create adequate time for discussion.   If accepted, we will place you on a panel of speakers working on related topics.
  • Performance: [group or individual]  A live video or audiovisual performance including theater, dance, play, musical performance or a combination of these or other forms of performance, followed by a question and answer session or brief presentation session with the performer(s).  If this is a group performance,  one of the performers must be nominated for maintaining communication amongst other performers and with CESA, and be listed as “Chair” of the submission. All performers must be included on this form. Please come prepared with all necessary supplies for your workshop.
  • Panel: [group]  A group submission consisting of no less than three and no more than five individual presentations on organizing, activism, research, or scholarship.  In addition, the panel must include a “Chair” who may also be listed as a presenter on the panel.  The chair will maintain communication amongst panelists and with CESA. A discussant(s) is optional. The discussant(s), should you choose to have one, cannot also serve as a panelist but can serve a dual role as Chair and/or comment on the session. All panelists, including discussants, must be listed on this form.
  • Roundtable: [group]  A group submission with no limit of presenters. Roundtable sessions consist of short presentations designed to generate conversation with conference attendees on any set of themes or topics. In addition, the roundtable must include a “Chair” who may also serve as a presenter on the roundtable and will maintain communication amongst other presenters and with CESA. All presenters must be included on this form.  Please come prepared with all necessary supplies for your roundtable.
  • Workshop: [group or individual]  An interactive session with an individual or a group of facilitators. Workshop sessions may take many formats from educational to strategy sessions, to media trainings, to know-your-rights, skill shares and more.  If there is more than one facilitator, a Chair must be identified who will maintain communication amongst other presenters and with CESA. All presenters must be included on this form. Please come prepared with all necessary supplies for your workshop.
  • Arts Engagement Workshop: [group or individual]  An interactive or participatory arts engagement facilitated by an individual or a group of community artists. Examples include skills sharing, consciousness raising, and exploring politics or visions through art, often involving audience participation.  If there is more than one artist presenting, a ‘Chair’ must be identified who be responsible for maintaining communication amongst other members of the group and with CESA.   All presenters must be included on this form. Please come prepared with all necessary supplies for your workshop.
  • Activist Report-back: [group or individual]  An individual or group submission consisting of a presentation of work, action or campaign that a group or organization is engaging in. It can be a report of a recent actions or progress in campaign work. This session can have a specific goal for the organization, i.e. to raise awareness, recruit members, get signatures for a petition, or network-building. The session can also include  an activity, i.e. letter-writing, sign-making.  If there is more than one presenter, a ‘Chair’ should be identified who will maintain communication amongst the other presenters and with CESA. All presenters must be included on this form. Please come prepared with all necessary supplies for your session.
  • Soundbites and Pitches: [group]  A group session consisting of brief sharing of ideas relating to the conference theme, with goal of brainstorming and developing potential individual or collaborative projects. Soundbites and pitches may involve 5-minute presentations where people give a blurb about their projects they are or would like to work on. For example, this may resemble a speed dating session where folks mix and mingle in pairs around the room. One of the presenters should be designated as “Chair” and maintain communication amongst the other presenters and with CESA. All presenters must be included on this form.
  • World Cafe or Conversation Cafe: [group]  Each table in a cafe or any space has a question on it for discussion. Folks go to any tables they wish and engage in the conversations about the topic/question at that table. People can leave one table at any time and join another and so on. One presenter must be present at each discussion table to facilitate the conversation.   One of the presenters should be designated as “Chair” and maintain communication amongst the other presenters and with CESA. All presenters in the Café must be included on this form.


All sessions will be allotted 90 minutes. Most sessions will be held in classroom spaces and will be equipped with a computer, projector and screen.

PROGRAM STREAMS:  During the submissions process, we will ask that you indicate the program stream for which your proposal best falls under. These streams are simply used to help us review submissions. If your proposal does not fit neatly into any of these categories, that is totally okay – just select the “Other” category.

  • Art, Visual Culture and Media
  • Migration, Borders and Settler Colonialism
  • Global Capitalism, Neoliberalism, and Precarity of Labour
  • Decolonial: Pedagogy, Critical Methods, and Ethnographies
  • Health, Disability/Disablement and Reproductive Justice
  • Incarceration, Criminalization, and State Violence
  • Land Defense, Environmental Justice and Food Sovereignty
  • Extractivism, Racism, and Colonialism
  • Relationships and Resistance, Relationships as Resistance
  • Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Trans and Trans Interventions
  • Other

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL:  You first must have a CESA account. If you are new to CESA and never created an account on our website, please go here to create a new account. If you have created an account in the past (ex. to purchase membership or register for a CESA conference), please use the same account by login in here first then returning to this page. If you forgot your password or not sure what email address you used, please go here to reset your account. Please read the rest of this page and then click on the button at the end proceed to submit your CFP. The person who submits the CFP will be the primary contact person. All email communication from CESA will be sent to the primary presenter.

GROUP PRESENTERS: The primary presenter must make sure all other presenters have created accounts on CESA (click here to create new account). Gather their account first and last name as well as their username. If there is more than 1 presenter (ex. Group Submissions), click "Add another speaker".  Begin adding their first and last name and the system will fetch a list of users. Make sure you choose the correct one with their correct USERNAME(S) for every additional presenter. The presenter at the top will be the primary contact for the group and will be the only person who can edit the submission in the future.

SUBMISSION EDITS: The primary presenter can edit the submission in "My Account" via the "My Sessions" tab. All other presenters can view but can not edit the submission via the "My Sessions" tab in their "My Account".

Tips on Submitting Proposals

Submitting Your Proposal

When submitting a proposal, once you get to the bottom of the page you are given the options to “Save” or “Preview.”  When you choose “Save” your proposal is submitted. There is no final “Submit” button, just the “Save” button.

There is not an automatic email confirmation - we will be sending confirmations after the extended deadline.

However, you can check that your submission has gone through by going to “My Account” from the very top menu and then “My Sessions.”  Your proposed conference session should be listed.

As long as your proposal is listed under “My Sessions,” your proposal has been submitted.

Group Proposals

For panel or other group proposals, we do not ask for individual paper abstracts, just a general abstract for the panel (although you are welcome to detail individual contributions within the general abstract).

To submit as a group, every participant needs to have created their own account through the website.

To add panelists to your proposal, click on “Add another Speaker” and type their username into the text box under “Speaker(s).” Once you find their name/account in the drop-down list, select it. Then your panelist has been added.

An individual panelist can double as chair. If a chair is not already a panelist, they should still be added as a Speaker like the other panelists.

Panels can have respondents but it is not required.