Congress 2023 theme ‘Reckonings and Re-Imaginings’ a call to reflect

Andrea Davis

York University will host the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the largest academic gathering in Canada, in partnership with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

On April 13, the theme for Congress 2023 was announced as “Reckonings and Re-imaginings,” which will guide the direction of discussions and knowledge sharing at the first in-person Congress since 2019.

YFile had the opportunity to discuss the theme with Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Andrea Davis, who is serving as academic convenor for Congress 2023. The interview is below.

Q: The theme for Congress 2023 “Reckonings and Re-Imaginings” was formally announced yesterday. What excites you most about this theme?
A: I am excited by this theme because it’s a call to reflection on where we (as scholars, activists, artists and thinkers) are and how we got here. Rather than simply centering the problems, this theme insists that we imagine otherwise – that we consider what a different set of possibilities might look like and that we come together collectively to create the kind of world we want to live in.

Q: What impact are you hoping this theme will have on academic associations as they begin planning for their attendance at Congress 2023?
A: I hope that scholarly associations from their various locations in the humanities and social sciences will be challenged to think about how their disciplines might be enriched, even transformed, by bringing a decolonial, anti-racism and climate justice lens to bear on the major premises of those disciplines. I believe strongly that centering Indigenous and Black imagination and futurities as valuable and critical modes of thought in the research we do and the art we create can help us find our way toward the realization of a better world. This is not so much about what Black and Indigenous modes of thought can teach us about ourselves, but what happens when we begin to think from these perspectives – what happens when we replace competitive forms of citizenship with principles of relationality and reciprocity; when we begin to re-imagine new social relationships grounded in decoloniality, anti-racism, and preservation of the earth.

Q: As academic convenor, what are your priorities for the next six months?
My major priority is relationship building, working with colleagues and student researchers to curate a meaningful program so that people who have not traditionally seen themselves reflected in Congress will want to engage in dialogue and bring their ideas to the table. Again, I really believe we can do something meaningful and not just performative. That’s going to require trust from groups that have historically been hurt by universities and their white supremacist processes of knowledge production, as well as partnership with co-resistors and others who understand what is at stake and the possibilities for change.

Q: Do you have a message you’d like to share with York faculty, students and staff members about Congress 2023?
A: York is one of Canada’s most diverse universities (perhaps even the most diverse) with a strong commitment to social justice. We have an opportunity not only to tell a compelling story about who we are and our research strengths, but to lead the way in creating a more just university for a better world. I invite faculty, students and staff to coalesce around the vision of this theme – as we draw on the core principles of the York University Academic Plan and its commitment to elevate the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals – to re-imagine what the academic project of the University might look like.

For more on Congress 2023, see the original announcement in YFile.