Congress 2023 attendees get a taste of the arts at York

An image from Respair

By Elaine Smith

York University is known for its vibrant, diverse arts programs and the Arts@Congress Showcase, happening on May 27 at 3 p.m. at the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre in Accolade East, brings to Congress 2023 a sampling of this creativity.

“The arts are one of our strengths at York,” says Joel Ong, director of Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology and a member of the Congress 2023 scholarly planning committee. “This program will be a celebration of the arts and culture at York and a culmination of the Year of the Arts program that has been ongoing at AMPD. “Congress 2023 Director Liz McMahan, Academic Convenor Andrea Davis and the performance facilities team at AMPD led by Jacquie Lazar and I have been working hard to put forth a rich and diverse program that builds on the variety of such performances we’ve had over the year.”

Still from Ancestor73
An image from Ancestor73

The performances scheduled for the afternoon draw on the conference theme Reckonings and Re-imaginings. The roster includes the Gospel Ensemble directed by music faculty Corey Butler; a video piece, Black Ballerina, by dance Professor Syreeta Hector; and three dance pieces choreographed by York students and external guests led by dance Professors Tracey Norman and Patrick Alcedo at AMPD. In addition, the Showcase will feature students from Downsview Secondary School performing a winning entry from a spoken word competition organized by Davis. 

Ancestor 73 is a dance choreographed and performed by alumnus Rayn Cook-Thomas (Gwagwadaxla) from the Kwakwaka’wakw nation in coastal British Columbia. It honours the 73 remaining southern resident orcas living near his home.

Cook-Thomas noted that orcas are important spiritual leaders for him and his nation because they carry ancestral knowledge. His dance piece attempts to show the strength, beauty and spirituality of these mammals as they face the impact humans have had on their ocean home and the detrimental effects colonialism has had for the planet.

AMPD alumna and choreographer Blythe Russell is presenting Respair at the Showcase, an original, contemporary dance duet that she created in a 2022 collaboration with fellow alumni Cook-Thomas and Phoebe Rose Harrington.

An image from Respair
An image from Respair

“I’m so excited to be sharing this piece at Congress,” Russell said. “In creating this new piece, we sought to understand what was driving these two bodies to come together. We discovered a human perspective that produced beauty in the form of a more tender, vulnerable magnetism between two people. Respair is about accepting the challenges that make us who we are and bringing them forward with us in a hopeful way.”

Ong says the Showcase is also a reminder that there are many different forms of expression and exploration and that the creative arts play an integral role in work done in the humanities and social sciences.

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Project champions audiovisual heritage of minoritized communities

Film reel

Archive/Counter-Archive (A/CA): Activating Canada’s Moving Image Heritage is a seven-year research-creation project focusing on preserving the audiovisual cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Métis, Inuit), Black communities and people of colour, women, LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities. Two events at Congress 2023 will demonstrate its ongoing objectives.

Janine Marchessault
Janine Marchessault

“The project itself grew out of a crisis,” says Janine Marchessault, principal investigator and professor in the Department of Cinema & Media Arts at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design. A/CA was created in 2018 with $2.499 million in funding from a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant. “As a film scholar doing a lot of research in archives, I kept hearing the same story that archives are completely underfunded,” she says, which has led to a negligence of Canada’s audio-visual heritage. Most at risk were materials belonging to marginalized communities.

“Archive/Counter-Archive rose out a sense that we have to do something,” says Marchessault. Since 2018, it has pursued its objective to activate and preserve the moving image heritage of those most vulnerable to disappearance and inaccessibility, along with pursuing educational outreach to promote greater archive care and use.    

In the process, A/CA aims to counter the hegemony of traditional archival institutions that have normally neglected marginalized communities, at the same time as offering education and advocacy.

In its first five years, A/CA has seen collaborations with dozens of community repositories, artists and archives. It has also helped create educational resources, host student and postdoctoral researchers, and support several case studies.

For example, there was the exhibition launch of “Inuuqatikka: My Dear Relations” in 2020, which featured work drawn from the archival materials of the world’s leading women-centered Inuit filmmaking collective, Arnait Video Productions. Another example is “AIDS Activist Media: Toronto Living with AIDS & Second Decade,” which looks at archival AIDS activist media in Toronto from the late 1980s and 1990s, including a public access cable television program called Toronto Living With AIDS, running 1990-91, as well as 10 public service announcements (PSAs) created by Canadian artists at Banff. Another case study by the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC) has focused on key Canadian LGBTQ+ films made between the mid-1970s and the early 2000s that lay dormant because queer works in the collection from this period exist solely on celluloid or outdated video formats.

A/CA’s work will also feature in two upcoming Congress 2023 events.

The first is a May 28 hybrid screening and live expanded cinema performance event – ticket price is $10 for the general public –featuring the work of artists: Lindsay McIntyre, a filmmaker and artist of Inuk and settler descent, who works primarily with analogue film drawn from archives, exploring place-based knowledge, portraiture and personal histories; and Peter Bussigel, a composer and intermedia artist working with sound, video and performance.

The event will screen projects – ranging from animated, documentary and live performance – produced by McIntyre, concerned with lost histories and intergeneration traumas of her Inuit matrilineal heritage, the beauty of her Inuk great grandmother’s beautiful beadworks, and the framework of tree/human relationships on unceded Pacheedaht territory at Fairy Creek.

The second Congress event, on May 29, will see the Film and Media Studies Association of Canada host a panel called “Making Counter-Archives: Artist-in-Residence as Research Methodology” (more information can be found here). Free for audience members who are Congress registrants, the panel is moderated by Marchessault and features four of A/CA’s current and previous artists-in-residence, allowing these artists an opportunity to discuss their experiences working with their hosting institutions and how it has informed their ongoing practice.

It is an event that represents something of an encapsulation of A/CA to encourage the preservation of the visual-media past of marginalized communities in order to promote their future. “The panel is about research methodology, bringing artists into archives to discover things and create bridges to the outside, to translate the material, to remediate them, and generate new things from the archives which is what Archive/Counter-Archive is about. It’s about generating new life for archives in the 21st century,” says Marchessault. 

Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Next Generation Lecture Series focuses on Reckonings & Re-Imaginings

Scott Library Atrium

By Elaine Smith

A new lecture series that lines up with the Congress 2023 theme Reckonings & Re-Imaginings is set to feature four thought-provoking talks from early career, pre-tenure researchers at York.

Assistant Professors – Desirée de Jesus of communication & media studies; Kinnon MacKinnon of the School of Social Work; Yvonne Su of equity studies; and Cary Wu of sociology – will each spend four to six minutes showcasing their work on a digital kiosk in the Scott Library.

“These are snapshots,” said Ravi de Costa, LA&PS associate dean, research & graduate studies. “Each researcher’s video features one particular story from their work and offers a window into their larger research program, representing their field, and the methods and questions they ask.

“And when you take all four together, even though they are addressing different subjects, it shows what we mean when we say York is committed to social justice, to equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Research by de Jesus focuses on how Black Canadian girls develop a sense of cultural belonging; MacKinnon draws attention to the growing phenomenon of gender detransition and what that means in terms of our understanding of gender and care. Su explores the challenges, such as homophobia and gender violence, that LGBTQ+ asylum seekers experience in the Global South, while Wu considers how high inflation is a critical determinant of health and health inequality.

There will also be a visible QR code within the kiosk display that takes viewers to a website featuring more in-depth information about the faculty members’ individual research.

“York has such creative depth and expertise in the social sciences and humanities, so this is a moment of celebration and recognition,” de Costa said. “The call for community programming for Congress 2023 is a wonderful opportunity to make these strengths more visible.”

Victoria Stacey, LA&PS senior communications specialist, has been involved in producing the videos and is enthusiastic about the finished products.

“Each researcher makes a complex topic extremely accessible,” she said. “They have demonstrated how research can be explained well.”

De Costa noted that it’s essential to understand that the insights of scholarly research can be valuable not just to academics but to everyone. “We need to communicate our work in different ways, in the places and forms that people live and work and congregate.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2Register here to attend, community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Congress 2023 screens Indigenous-focused films

film camera

By Elaine Smith

A group of female directors will bring their Indigenous-focused films to York’s Keele Campus during Congress 2023 in late May.

Both conference attendees and the general public will have the opportunity to see the works of Ange Loft, Martha Stiegman, Angele Alook and Paulette Moore free of charge as part of the conference’s community programming. They touch on a variety of issues and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including reduced inequalities, life on land and gender equality.

Loft, a multidisciplinary artist, and Stiegman, an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), are part of Jumblies Theatre & Arts’ Talking Treaties project which is produced By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto and screens on May 28. The piece was created to explore the treaty negotiations between the colonizing British and the Mississaugas of the Credit, for the land the City of Toronto now occupies. Afterward, Amar Bhatia, co-director of Osgoode Hall’s Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments, will facilitate a discussion with members of the creative team.

“Using archival records and minutes of the treaty negotiations, we see the underhanded calculus and fraudulent means used to acquire Mississauga lands,” says Stiegman. “It [the film] uses sardonic humour as sugar on the medicine of truth to draw people in and engage them in a different way of learning about history so they don’t feel like they are doing homework.”

Alook, assistant professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies brings her work, pîkopayin (It Is Broken), to the screen on May 27. Part of the Just Powers project on energy transition and environmental and social justice, the film looks at the impacts of resource extraction on the community of Bigstone Cree Nation in Alberta, Alook’s home territory, which sits amidst the oil sands in the boreal forest. It documents traditional land users’ practices such as hunting, harvesting, and land-based teaching, while talking to the residents about their visions of the future on these lands.

The final films, VeRONAka and Rahyne, screen on June 1 and are followed by a panel discussion moderated by director Paulette Moore, an EUC PhD student, filmmaker and owner of The Aunties Dandelion media organization. VeRONAka is a 10-minute live-action fictional film, both humorous and serious, that explores the true story of how a Mohawk clan mother gave COVID-19 a Mohawk name, personifying the out-of-control virus. Once a person is in relationship with the virus, they can understand why it is here and ask it to leave. Rahyne is a short, animated film about an Afro-Indigenous non-binary teen whose identity is united through two water spirits. Moore will talk with Rahyne’s co-directors Queen Kukoyi and Nico Taylor about how film can help explore concepts of identity and naming. 

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend; community passes are available and term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Visiting artist Zeelie Brown to celebrate Black, queer ecologies through quilt-making

quilt patches
quilt patches

The Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) welcomes visiting Artist-in-Residence Zeelie Brown from May 11 to 19.

Artist Zeelie Brown holding cello under dramatic teal lighting
Zeelie Brown

Brown’s artistry stems from her upbringing in rural Alabama. She creates Black and queer refuges called “soulscapes” – blending sound, performance, installation, wilderness and more to provide solace and challenge systemic oppression.

Hosted by EUC Professor Andil Gosine, Brown will collaborate with the Faculty to create a quilt, exploring the intersections of Black and queer identities and nature, which will be shared at Gosine’s keynote lecture at the Sexuality Studies Association conference as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences on May 29.

Staff, students and faculty are encouraged to attend a meet-and-greet with Brown on May 18 at 10:30 a.m. in HNES 138.

Brown met with graduate student researcher Danielle Legault to talk about her upcoming visit.

Q: Can you please share a bit about who Zeelie Brown is?

A: Well, I am an installation artist, cellist and butcher. I am from the woods of Alabama and San Antonio, Texas, where I grew up going back and forth between both places. In my practice I am very much concerned with environment and space. I’m concerned with the ideas of wilderness, Black people’s experience of wilderness, the idea of wilderness as a constructed place, and how queerness, humanity and grace intersect in order to envision and build a more sustainable future.

Q: Can you describe what goals you have for your visit to Toronto and York University?

A: I’m only here for a week, so I’m excited to engage in the exploration of art, craft and culture and to share my perspective, the place I come from and the struggles of that place. These include struggles around adequately weatherproofed housing, the continued colonial legacy of environmental racism, the racism embedded within the landscape architecture of the American project – America being considered a continent and not just a country here – and struggles around place building and the intersections of Blackness, queerness and different identities. And more than all of that, the ability to create from, and beyond, those places.

I’m also excited to learn more about Canada and about Toronto. I’ve met other queer activists through work that I’ve done in the past that I’m interested in following up with. I’m excited to see where our struggles can meet one another and support one another.

Q: You will be working on a project with Professor Andil Gosine while you are here. Can you share some details about that?

A: I’ll be making a collaborative community quilt with York University students and Professor Gosine, centered around ideas contained within his book, Nature’s Wild. The quilt will be a meditation on the intersection of the students’ own personal expressions of their identities and their own interfaces with nature and the ideas of Blackness, wilderness and being from the margin. So, we’re making a quilt, but I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries and exploring what form the quilt will take.

Q: Can you speak about the significance of quilting and how it can push boundaries?

A: In Alabama, we’re world-renowned for our quilting tradition. But to me, quilting is about taking the things that are left over and making art of the discards. It comes from a very long African tradition of abhorring waste. Lots of traditions have this, where “waste not, want not” is traditionally part of the culture.

I think often art is seen as a solitary exercise and not as a means of holding and tying together a community. But what did those quilts in Alabama do? They reminded people of their lost loved ones. They kept people warm. They have a very practical function. And in a situation of enforced dearth, where a Black rural culture that has given everything to the American project is being inhaled, robbed and tied to a racist myth constructed to keep the plantation class rich in their culture and power. The community takes its scraps and makes art and warmth, and joy and love.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share with the York community before your arrival?

A: I want to thank Toronto, York and Professor Gosine for having me here. I would like to emphasize thinking about the folks back home in the Black Belt who, due to the soil tectonics of that region, which were very conducive to growing cotton, have limited, if any, access to adequate sewage and are penalized by the state for the state’s failure. I want to uplift the work of Black folks in rural America.

When we slow down and take time for the rituals, like quilting, cooking, care, cultivating – when we start viewing these acts as important as profit, things start coming together and problems start getting solved. But when everybody’s after a quick buck, there’s often only so many quick bucks to be had.

Going back to what the goal of my time at York is; the goal of my project is to slow down, to create community and to revive traditions that are nearly lost because they don’t make money fast, yet have kept folks alive through some of the most harrowing and wretched treatment that humans have ever inflicted upon each other.

York library exhibits to reflect on Congress theme Reckonings and Re-Imaginings

Scott Library

By Elaine Smith

Congress 2023 at York University will involve more than academic presentations and panel discussions, as York University Libraries is set to showcase its unique archival holdings built through five decades of preserving cultural heritage.

Michael Moir, University archivist, and his team have been working for many months to create thought-provoking, interesting exhibits for the event. Three exhibits will be on display on the second floor of the library between May 27 and June 2 reflecting on the event theme, Reckonings and Re-imaginings.

At Congress in 2006, “John Lennox, the former dean of Graduate Studies approached the archives about having exhibits of interest to various learned societies,” said Moir, who is also head, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections. “When Congress’ return to York was announced, the Libraries began to plan for participation in the celebration, building upon our first experience.”

The first exhibit, Reckoning and Reimagining: Deborah Barndt’s Engaged Use of Photography, showcases images taken by the retired professor, who is also curating the display. The exhibit will focus a contemporary lens on photos of migrants to Peru in the 1970s; posters from ESL classes in Toronto between 1977 and 1984; literacy teachers in Nicaragua learning to be photojournalists during the Sandinista regime in the 1990s; and urgent social issues of the early 1990s.

Celebrating Black Emancipation Through Carnival focuses on the work of the late Kenneth Shah, a native of Trinidad and Tobago who immigrated to Toronto and was a major force for years in the city’s Caribana, an annual celebration of the emancipation of the Caribbean’s Black population. His costume designs were featured in the parade year after year and the colours and styles will be on display for viewers.

Ben Wicks, the late cartoonist, and his work are the focus of the third exhibit, Cartoons as Commentary and Agents of Change.

“Wicks was known for his cartoons and his work with CBC-TV,” said Moir. “Fewer people are aware of his humanitarian work and his campaigns against poverty and malnutrition in Canada and Africa, and to promote children’s literacy. We seldom think of cartoons as agents of change, but he used them to draw attention to causes dear to his heart.”

The Wicks family donated many of his drawings, scrapbooks and episodes of his television show to York and a selection of these aims to give the viewer more insight into his work as a changemaker.

All three exhibits will be open to the public during regular library hours, except if a Congress 2023 reception is taking place in the space.

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Congress 2023 sustainable decision to create memories without swag

Arial view of Kaneff

By Elaine Smith

Among the many sights for Congress 2023 attendees to enjoy at York next month, four Swag Stages will host pop-up dance and musical performances.

Located in high-traffic outdoor locations on York’s Keele Campus, the community can enjoy various artistic performances selected by Congress 2023 organizers in lieu of the swag that conference attendees often receive as souvenirs.

“I discovered that only 21 per cent of branded items are kept for any length of time,” says Liz McMahan, director of Congress 2023. “Promotional items definitely have their time and place, but with such a diverse group of over 8,000 people, it would be difficult to find something useful for everyone.”

Swag Stage performer and Arts, Media, Performance & Design PhD candidate Collette Murray will perform with the Coco Collective
Swag Stage performer and Arts, Media, Performance & Design PhD candidate Collette Murray will perform with the Coco Collective, an organization of which she is the artistic director

Collette Murray, a York PhD student in dance studies, and the Coco Collective are among the dozen or more acts who will bring joy and relaxation to campus during an event that focuses heavily on papers, posters and panel discussions.

“I appreciate that the Congress organizers are expanding the conference’s reach to include additional ways that intellects engage in research, and performance is one of them,” says Murray, who will also be presenting a performance art discourse on Afro-diasporic dances practices as freedom at a Black Canadian Studies Association session.

McMahan also says that, “Given Congress 2023’s theme ‘Reckonings and Re-Imaginings’ and York’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we thought about our responsibility and how to make Congress 2023 a more sustainable experience. We wondered about what we could give them that wouldn’t end up in landfill and decided on pop-up performances to surprise and delight people.”

Congress 2023 academic convenor Andrea Davis, Joel Ong, an associate professor from the School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design and McMahan collaborated to create a list of York-related performers who were interested in participating. Each performer will commit to a morning or afternoon performance and will circulate among the four stages to give more attendees an opportunity to enjoy their work.

“I hope that in addition to their morning coffee, the performances help people wake up and give them a way to de-stress after presenting papers and attending conferences all day,” McMahan says. “The entire York community is also welcome to experience these performances and I hope will seek them out.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Students from Jane-Finch community engage with Congress 2023

Students in front of Vari Hall 2021

When York University Professor Andrea Davis became the academic convenor for Congress 2023, she listened closely to York members who wanted to engage the University’s surrounding community. Davis, the Congress scholarly planning committee and Research Assistant Jellisa Ricketts have prioritized making space for local high school and undergraduate students at the event.

“The scholarly planning committee wanted to do this engagement well and we decided to focus on four high schools in the nearby Jane-Finch community,” said Davis.

Davis contacted administrators at each of the schools – C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, Downsview Secondary School, Emery Collegiate Institute and Westview Centennial Secondary School – to arrange two pathways for participation.

Each school recommended five senior students who identify as Black or Indigenous to attend two of Congress 2023’s Big Thinking lectures: former Governor General Michaëlle Jean’s lecture about ”Re-Imagining Black Futures” and Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obamsawin’s talk, “Seeds of the Future: Climate Justice, Racial Justice, and Indigenous Resurgence.” Afterward, each speaker will meet the students for a private lunch and conversation.

High school students participate in a poetry competition
High school students participate in a poetry competition (credit: Sissi Song, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies)

These senior students will be paired with undergraduate students who attended high school in the Jane-Finch community, meeting twice before Congress 2023 to build connections. To identify appropriate York undergraduate ambassadors, Davis reached out to Associate Professor Sylvia Bawa, director of the Resource Center for Public Sociology and the Jane-Finch Social Innovation Hub, and Mohamed Ahmed and Tesfai Mengesha, co-directors of the community-based program, Success Beyond Limits.

A poetry competition has also been running in these schools to engage students with Congress. The author of the best entry from each school will receive a $500 honorarium and the opportunity to read their poem at a Congress 2023 event.

“This is the best kind of outreach,” Davis said. “We want to show students they have a voice and a future, while breaking down walls between academia and our wider communities.

“It’s part of our larger commitment to demonstrate what it means to be a place-based university adjacent to the Jane-Finch community. York University and the Jane-Finch community both emerged in the mid-20th century and our location makes us both unique and co-dependent. As a university, we have a commitment to serve the communities adjacent to our campus and to deal with them ethically and honestly.”

Ricketts added, “This work is very intentional. We’re backing up our talk with action and hoping some of these York connections flourish beyond Congress 2023, because I can feel how grateful the high school students are.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

E-cargo cycle rides offer closer look at sustainability at Congress 2023

Trishaw at Downsview Park

By Elaine Smith

Those coming to Congress will have a chance to experience a special group trishaw ride through York University between May 29 to June 1. Rolling Toward Collective Change: Our Greenway’s E-Cargo Cycle Ride invites participants to consider how current social and ecological events have impacted northwest Toronto and how Greenway e-cargo cycles can be used to bring sustainable change to their communities.

Darnel Harris, a York University alumnus (BA ’12, MES ’15), visiting scholar at York’s CITY Institute and founder of Our Greenway, believes that cycling can serve both practical and recreational purposes, especially through electric cycles.

A trishaw at Orchard Pavilion
Our Greenway’s trishaw

Its two-seater, three-wheel vehicles are powered by an electricity-assisted cycle and driven by a pilot who pedals and steers from behind. Passengers and pilots are both fully able to experience the benefits of being outdoors together – from the sights and sounds to sunshine.  

The e-assist trishaws are essential features of Our Greenway’s Cycling Without Age program – an initiative that offers outdoor experiences to seniors, individuals with various physical abilities and the general public.

While the program is found in 37 countries, the North Toronto Chapter operates in Toronto’s Downsview Park. For Congress 2023, the local chapter will bring four of its trishaws to York. Registration will be required due to limited seats, but anyone with a bike is welcome to ride along.

“It is meant to be a slow experience that allows the riders to chat with the driver,” says Harris. “You can only do that at a slow speed. Usually, people picture cycling being all about young men and speed. It’s an entirely different reality than what we see in action here. We’re trying to show what is possible.”

Harris notes that Europe is far ahead of North America in lowering greenhouse gas emissions through the use of cargo cycles. “If you move goods and people by cargo cycle, a lot of training and education is required and there may be cycle and part supply issues, but, fundamentally, there’s a lot of potential here,” he says.

A trishaw at Downsview Park in Toronto
A trishaw at Downsview Park in Toronto

Harris works with researchers, including Assistant Professor Kevin Gingerich from York’s Lassonde School of Engineering and uses an action-based research approach to examining future opportunities for the use of e-cycles.

Harris is open to new research partnerships from across all disciplines. “We’re trying to plant a seed,” Harris says. “Cycling supports 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), providing fertile ground for transdisciplinary research.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend and as a reminder, term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.

Congress 2023 panel to examine settler-Indigenous relationships in Canada

Bergeron ariel summer

By Elaine Smith

A panel discussion organized as part of Congress 2023 aims to expand dialogue around settler-Indigenous relations, reckoning with the legacy of colonialism and re-imagining relationships between Indigenous and racialized settlers.

York University’s Centre for Feminist Research, Centre for Jewish Studies and Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies will jointly present Reckoning with and Re-Imagining Settler-Indigenous Relationships in Canada. Elaine Coburn, associate professor of international studies at Glendon College and director of the Centre for Feminist Research, will moderate this session happening on May 30 at York’s Keele Campus for Congress 2023.

“While discussions about Indigenous-settler relations generally focus on the relationships between white settlers and Indigenous Peoples, the reality is more nuanced,” says Coburn.

“We also need to think about racialized presence in Canada during settlement, what relations have been, and what they could be between racialized and Indigenous people. With the Black Lives Matter movement and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, there have been more opportunities to talk through the politics of solidarity.”

This panel will feature York researchers including Angele Alook, assistant professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and a member of Bigstone Cree Nation in Treaty 8 territory; Professor Ena Dua, an anti-racist scholar in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Associate Professor of history David Koffman, J. Richard Schiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry; and, from outside of York, Genevieve Fuji-Johnson, vice-president of the Canadian Political Science Association (Simon Fraser University).

“Canada has a history of inviting white settlement, excluding others or only including others in a precarious way,” Coburn said. “Racialized labour was welcomed, but temporarily.”

Scholarship has often repeated these exclusions, centering the white settler experience. A comprehensive understanding of Canada’s past and present takes into account the complexities of racialized peoples’ relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

In addressing these realities, the Congress 2023 panel aims to participate in understanding the “larger picture of decolonization and anti-racism. Thinking about the lands on which we live means thinking about supporting Indigenous self-determination and solidarities for racial justice so everyone can participate fully in life,” says Coburn. 

Coburn, who is a member of the Congress 2023 Scholarly Planning Committee, says Convenor Andrea Davis “has a vision of what Congress can and will be – a space where Indigenous, Black and other racialized scholars feel invited in. We want to make sure these scholarly voices are brought from the margins to the centre.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend or volunteer in a variety of roles to support Congress. Term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.