CSDH/SCHN Withdrawal From Congress 2021

The Executive and the Programme Committee of the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities/société canadienne des humanités numériques (CSDH/SCHN) stand in solidarity with the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA) and their statements on February 9, February 20 and March 15 regarding their withdrawal from 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 

CSDH/SCHN recognizes the extent to which anti-Black racism affects students and faculty on campuses across Canada and believes that a national convention should be a place where everyone feels welcome and respected. Congress should be a space to engage in discussion about our collective responsibility as a community of scholars to put an end to the systemic violence that our Black colleagues, students, and friends experience as part of their everyday lives. The Federation’s initial refusal to consider the requests of the BCSA is deeply troubling. While we are happy to see a commitment to a Black Studies theme at a future Congress, we believe that much more attention must be paid to working consultatively with and with deference to Black scholars and organizations than has been the case thus far.

Our stated commitments to racial equity are empty if we do not take action to support Black colleagues in their assertion of their right to simply be heard and included. Therefore, CSDH-SCHN will be withdrawing from Congress 2021 and will hold our planned conference on May 30 to June 3 separately from the Federation. This was a tough decision and we share our gratitude with colleagues at University of Alberta who have been working so hard on Congress 2021. We will be in touch with our conference participants to confirm alternative gathering details. 

In future years, we look forward to rejoining Congress after a clear commitment against anti-Black racism has materialized into concrete actions and distinct policies. We will be staying in touch with our CSDH-SCHN membership on this matter in the coming years. In response to an ongoing absence of proactive work on racial equity from the Federation, the CSDH-SCHN commits to including a discussion at our June AGM about whether or not to continue our membership in the Federation. We also look forward to reading the forthcoming report from the Federation’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization (EDID).

As an organization, we also have work to do. CSDH-SCHN is currently in the process of assessing our own resources and gaps in order to create space for and celebrate the work of Black and Indigenous scholars in the Canadian digital humanities scholarly community. In the coming months, we will be collaborating with our membership and the broader community to empower this work and determine accountability measures for our organization’s commitments.

By way of immediate action, CSDH-SCHN commits to make our conference registration free for Black and Indigenous students and students of colour, in addition to scholars in precarious positions. 

We ask that you please share this statement widely and be in touch with CSDH-SCHN President Geoffrey Rockwell at grockwel@ualberta.ca if you would like to collaborate. 

Thank you,