Watson 2021: Call for Consultation


Toward the Antiracist Conference:
Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present

Deadline for Proposals: Monday, February 8, 2021, 11:59 pm EST
Mini-Conference: April 21-23, 2021

The thirteenth biennial Thomas R. Watson Conference in Rhetoric and Composition, which will be held virtually from April 21-23, 2021, will focus on policies and practices for planning and convening antiracist conferences. The exigence for our theme is global and local. This year’s uprisings for Black liberation have only reaffirmed the need for institutions of higher education to confront their roles in perpetuating a white supremacist system and, with the BIPOC students, faculty, and staff who have endured this violence and marginalization, to create just and equitable structures in its place. Moreover, we seek to extend the repair work the Watson Conference has undertaken in addressing its own history of enabling anti-Black racism by forging a way forward. (See Watson and Anti-Black Racism for a complete discussion.)

Inspired by the September 2020 College Composition and Communication symposium “Enacting a Culture of Access in Our Conference Spaces” (Hubrig and Osorio), our event will be a forum for interrogating existing conference policies and practices and reimagining them to foster antiracism in how conferences are conceived, organized, and staged. This work--a kind of consultation that, as such, will be remunerated--will inform the planning of future Watson Conferences and, we hope, that of other conferences in our field. Because the scholarship on antiracist conferences is still limited, presenters are encouraged to apply their disciplinary expertise; their past experiences with and observations of conference-going; and their commitments to critiquing institutions, imagining and enacting new directions, and developing methods for repair and accountability. We also invite presenters to take an intersectional approach and engage with the relationship between racism and other axes of oppression.

Presenters might consider questions such as the following:

  • What approaches exist, or should be developed, to combat the inveterate whiteness of conferences in our field?
  • What systems have been or should be created to address microaggressions and hate speech at conferences?
  • What feedback and reporting mechanisms should conferences implement to assess their antiracist performance objectives?
  • How have conferences extended outside the academy by engaging with local communities around literacy or writing?
  • What compensation structures exist, or could be developed, for BIPOC scholars who expend intellectual and emotional labor to educate conference organizers or other groups about racist actions?

Presentation Formats and Number

This year’s event will be a “mini-conference” hosted on Zoom, with CART and ASL interpretation provided. Individual presentations will be 15 to 20 minutes, and we will place three to four individuals on a 75-minute panel based on related material. Groups of individuals can propose 75-minute panels or workshops.

Each day for three days (April 21-23, 2021), the mini-conference will feature approximately one invited keynote presentation and two panel presentations or workshops. (Panels/workshops will not be concurrent.) Assuming six total panels or workshops and three or four presenters per panel or workshop, we are therefore expecting to select up to approximately 18 to 24 presenters.

Consultation Work

In addition to giving their presentations, scholars will be asked to contribute a handout or resource to a public archive and to attend other presentations. For this work, each presenter will receive an honorarium. Individuals who give 15-to-20-minute presentations within panels will receive $500, and groups that organize 75-minute workshops will receive $2,000, divided evenly among the presenters.


Proposals (submitted through our webform) due by Monday, February 8, 11:59 pm EST
Notifications of acceptance sent by Friday, February 19
Registration, which will be free, opens to the public by Monday, March 15
Mini-conference occurs via Zoom on Wednesday, April 21, through Friday, April 23. CART and ASL will be available.

Proposal Details

Please submit your proposal by Monday, February 8, 11:59 pm EST, via our webform. You will be asked to provide the following information:

Type: Individual Proposal (15 to 20 minutes) / Panel Proposal or Workshop (75 minutes)
Panel chair (if relevant):
Full Name(s) of presenter(s):
Affiliation(s) (e.g., university or organization):
Email address(es):
Brief bio(s) that describe relevant expertise or background that you are bringing to the consultation:
Proposal title:
Proposal abstract
(suggested word counts: 300-500 words for an individual abstract; 500-1,500 words for a panel or workshop abstract):


Please direct questions to watson@louisville.edu.

Conference Organizers

Andrea Olinger, Director
Alex Way and Caitlin Burns, Assistant Directors