University community asked to provide feedback on Congress 2023 theme

Andrea Davis

The proposed theme for Congress 2023, which will take place at York University, is “Reckonings and Re-imaginings.” York Professor Andrea Davis, who is academic convenor for Congress 2023, is seeking feedback from the University community on the theme.

As announced to the community in November 2021, York University will host the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences with Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Andrea Davis serving as academic convenor. As part of the planning process, Davis is looking to York community members for input and engagement on developing the theme for Congress 2023.

“The development of the Congress theme is jointly undertaken by the host institution – York University – and the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences,” said Davis. “Our memorandum of understanding states that the partner university and federation will work together on the development of a theme and vision for Congress 2023, which will then be approved by the federation in March 2022.”

University community members are invited to provide feedback on the proposed theme by Tuesday, Feb.15 by completing the feedback form or by email to Davis at

Why “Reckonings and Re-imaginings?

The third decade of the 21st century has brought humanity into unprecedented times. An unrelenting global pandemic, protests for racial justice and escalating climate disasters have heightened our collective awareness that a world in which racial inequities, financial disparities, cultural intolerance, and material overconsumption were the norm is no longer sustainable. The important lessons from Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, have been joined by new reckonings about what is needed to live in non-hierarchical relationships that can truly honour human differences, while protecting the planet. 

“Reckonings and Re-imaginings” accepts that the project of creating a better future is ongoing and iterative, rather than final and conclusive. By centering interdisciplinary scholarship and research, Congress 2023 seeks to create space for dynamic and rigorous conversations that provide critical, relevant and responsive analysis of the multiple crises of our times from local and global perspectives. New models of world-making must reckon with non-inclusive forms of knowledge production that minimize the voices and perspectives of Indigenous, racialized and other marginalized scholars, and we must work to make visible decolonial, anti-racism, critical disability and queer perspectives.

In Congress 2023, the first in-person event of the new decade, York University as the host institution strengthens its “foundational commitment to the arts, humanities, and social sciences not only as fields of inquiry but as modes of apprehending human existence at this critical juncture” (University Academic Plan). Combining its strengths in the liberal arts with a long-standing commitment to social justice, York University invites us to consider the lessons we have learned over the past three years and to harness those lessons toward imagining a radically different world based on mutual respect and reciprocity.

The proposed theme aligns with the top priorities identified in the University Academic Plan, including creating knowledge for the future, advancing global engagement, working in partnership, and living well together. The theme aligns with the University’s commitment to deepen its collective contributions to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, by bringing its “unique capacities to bear on some of the most urgent issues facing the planet, from climate change to inequality to truth and reconciliation to forced migration, among others” ( University Academic Plan).

More about Congress 2023

Lisa Philipps, provost and vice-president academic, and Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell, associate vice-president research, attended a meeting with the federation in 2021 to discuss the development of a theme for Congress 2023. As part of the discussions, the federation made a commitment to a future conference theme that prominently features dialogue on social/racial justice issues, and on the experiences and knowledge of Black and Indigenous communities. In March 2021, the federation released a report on equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization that includes 41 recommendations for the federation and its membership. This report provides a framework for ongoing discussion with the academic community and lays out some priorities for federation activities of the coming years.

It is anticipated that the theme will be finalized with the federation in early March.