Toward the Antiracist Conference: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present (April 21-23, 2021)

For the thirteenth biennial Thomas R. Watson Conference in Rhetoric and Composition, we 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, is being remunerated--will inform the planning of future Watson Conferences and, we hope, that of other conferences in our field.

Our presenters will address 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?