This year’s theme is Confronting Political Divides. The challenge of political division is both multiple and intersecting in a variety of complex ways. Contemporary politics are defined by divisions of race, colonialism, gender, nationality, religion, and class. While these divisions are by no means ‘new,’ the way in which these challenges manifest and develop continues to change alongside shifts in technology, ecology, economics, and political discourse. The discipline of political science is central in understanding and responding to these challenges and, in so doing, plays a central role in assessing the possibilities for confronting political divides as well as the costs and benefits that come with these efforts.
This theme is consistent with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Congress) theme, Bridging Divides: Confronting Colonialism and Anti-Black Racism. Congress 2020 offers a gathering place on the banks of London’s Deshkan Ziibi, on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak, and Attawandaron (Neutral) peoples, not far from where some of Upper Canada’s earliest Black refugees arrived after fleeing slavery in the United States. The river’s Forks downstream from the Western University campus are a traditional meeting place where two tributaries converge, a place to come together to listen to the land and water, to build resilience as we confront what divides us. Congress 2020 will encourage multidisciplinary engagement under the broad concept of bridging divides, while specifically emphasizing the dispossession of Indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans in the new world. Settler colonialism, as part of a broader imperial project, erases Indigenous peoples by appropriating land and delegitimizing traditional knowledge, and dehumanizes Black people, subjecting them to the tropes of everyday anti-Black racism. As we come together to confront white privilege and white supremacy, and examine experiences shared by Indigenous peoples and African Canadians, we also invite our community to reflect critically on social, ethnic, political and epistemological divisions more broadly, forming a future vision that bridges divides between divergent ways of knowing and navigating our world.
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