2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference Call for Proposals Statement

(Proposal submission is now closed.)

What Now is the Work of Education and Justice?:  Mapping a New Critical Conscience

As with our inaugural and second conferences in 2006 and 2010 respectively, the third quadrennial Race and Pedagogy National Conference September 25-27, 2014, is conceptualized and planned as a collaboration of the University of Puget Sound’s Race and Pedagogy Initiative and the South Sound community in a growing reciprocal partnership, at the heart of which remains the Initiative’s Community Partners Forum. Our sustained investment in educating students and teachers at all levels in classrooms, co-curricular sites, community spaces and institutions, and through different disciplines and forms of knowledge, to think critically about race and to act to eliminate racism, challenges us to align concepts of education and justice in ways that call for conscience, critique, and change. Doing so also keeps us focused on expanding our understanding of how race works as a real and embodied social construct that produces and pervades our everyday social relations of difference, disparity, and discrimination, and its capacity for helping us interpret the complexities of who we are and the conditions and contexts of our lives.

Tensions between aspiration and achievement mark the gritty lived and interpretive complexities of our current moment, as we look toward this upcoming Conference. While such tensions are not new in the history of the United States, especially given its identities with the projects of colonialism, genocide and enslavement, the tug of war between concept and action, belief and behavior, reach and realization, seems exacting and exasperating to us in this time, in this our present, in particular ways. A key part of the backdrop for noticing this messiness, this logic of contradiction in the US historical process, came with the varied senses of promise, expectation, and declarations of a new threshold for racial and broader democratic liberalism accompanying the 2008 election and 2012 re-election of Barack Obama as US president. The nation has indeed made strides in struggles toward equality and reform in areas such as marriage and immigration policies. We have been witness in recent years to a season of commemorations marking civil rights legislative and policy victories. Yet, within this same season, voting rights have been challenged, and severe economic conditions have exacerbated a deepening politics of racial resentment and a sense of polarizations regarding who is stranger and alien, undocumented or documented, versus who legitimately belongs within the nation. Additionally the growth in mass incarceration has been unrelenting in scandalously shaping this era as one that legal scholar Michele Alexander has called the New Jim Crow. Furthermore, the murder of Trayvon Martin and persistent gaps in achievement and opportunity in K-12 public education have left many wondering just how long can the nation keep living, as if callously, as if without conscience, with flawed legal and other institutional systems. How long can we keep living in such a state of disrepair, disregard, distortion, and in the characterization of legal scholar, Patricia Williams, “spirit murder?”

Imperative and urgent for us then in our work at the nexus of education and justice is asking “What Now?”  In what ways must we face our complacencies and wrongheadedness and examine this gridlock between aspiration and achievement? How do we achieve a different and revitalized ground of integrity and graph for action? What forms of critical conscience are we called to imagine, learn, embody and enact? What are the resources from which we may construct and create the pulses and parts of a new conscience? Where and to whom might we look for inspiration, instruction and intuition? What are the yields of thinking about our diverse histories, thinking institutionally, and thinking pedagogically, in processing questions such as these? We invite you to join us at this Conference in mapping the reaches of such questions in pursuit of figuring out “What Now.” We welcome and look forward to your contribution of knowledge and questioning, experience and practice, and imagination and courage, for the making of an intrepid project of shaping and documenting the terms of a critical conscience that can speak to our times, one that in the spirit of James Baldwin’s cry at the closing of his clarion work, The Fire Next Time, is willing to “now dare everything” “to achieve our country.”

We invite proposals for papers, panels, and other presentation formats, including, but not limited to, round tables, posters, performances, visual arts, and interactive sessions from a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, and diverse range of participants, including scholars, teachers, students, and administrators in higher education and K-12 education, along with those involved in educational practices in a variety of civic, artistic, and community-based organizations. All proposals will be refereed in light of the overarching conference theme and along the lines of one or a combination of the following subthemes: 1) Freedom and Civil Rights Struggles: Legacies and Invisibilities; 2) Institutional Readiness and Transformation; and 3) Revolutionary Pedagogies.

THEME ONE: Freedom and Civil Rights Struggles: Legacies and Invisibilities

The recent season of commemorations of events from the 1950s and 60s has made it clear that a generation of figures associated with Civil Rights and Freedom struggles is passing from our midst. As we chart our investment in the work of education and justice now, documenting these lives and pasts for the purpose of sustaining historical memory and making legacies must be part of what we do. Knowing how to handle the past and figuring out its critical uses are crucial to how we map our moves forward. Handling such histories could draw us into the dangers of nostalgic remembering. We face tensions between engaging such histories as templates for replication or as touchstones for extension. Such nuance and mindfulness are pivotal because the urgent work of crafting a different conscience requires that we also pay attention to the invisibilities and silences, the missteps and violations, which may also be less known, hidden or suppressed features of these vital histories and legacies. We encourage submissions that consider such issues, alongside the ways in which we might negotiate sensibilities of gratitude, respect, historical vigilance, critical regard, and reflexivity as we take cues and create points of departure from these momentous struggles.

Proposals for presentations under this theme may include exploration of the following:

• Freedom Struggles and Civil Rights across historical periods in national or transnational contexts;
• Struggles over identity formation;
• Struggles over land, language and the terms of citizenship;
• Innovative methods of documenting and researching social struggles;
• Intersections between academic knowledge and social struggles;
• Intellectual, activist and artistic legacies of social struggles.

THEME TWO:  Institutional Readiness and Transformation

It is in our institutions that so much of the founding and grounding beliefs, and aspirations and ideals of a nation, are housed and reproduced. US Institutions have therefore served as major sites for contest and struggle, particularly because of the ways in which they have broken their promises and betrayed expectations of equality, justice, access and quality. For centuries, educational institutions have been a key source and site for such contestation. In both K-12 and higher education, underrepresentation of students from lower income backgrounds and of students of color persists. A similar pattern of disparity of representation continues to be sustained for faculty and staff. Such patterns of disparity serve to deepen the force of the calls for radically reassessing the performance and role of educational institutions. The devastating disproportionalities and disregard revealed by the school to prison pipeline have brought vital renewed and critical focus to our criminal justice system and the crisis of mass incarceration and also to the historically grounded and structural dynamics connecting injustice not only in these two systems but across several of our other institutions as well. The social toll of such distortions of democracy and dissolutions of dreams are way past any tenable threshold. We encourage submissions which probe such concerns, along with considering the ways in which we can make visible institutional mis-education and mis-actions, push past instincts and habits of resistance and conformity, and create new institutional forms that reset the conditions for transformational change and radical inclusion.

 Proposals for presentations under this theme may include exploration of the following:

• Cultivating infrastructural and institutional climate change;
• Institutional responses to and structures of accountability for their histories of discrimination;
• The politics and practice of institutional memory;
• Re-imagining the role of data and assessment practices in educational institutions;
• Recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in educational institutions;
• Mission of teacher education programs and professional development practices;
• Reimagining the curricular and leadership mission of higher educational institutions;
• Beyond criminal justice systems as the logic of justice.

THEME THREE: Revolutionary Pedagogies

Indispensable to the labor of making a new critical conscience is the activity of teaching and learning. Critical pedagogies and very importantly, those related to race, have revitalized and rearranged our expectations about the teaching and learning process by rendering the engagement between teachers and learners, and with the curriculum texts which anchor their encounters, as more multidirectional, contextual, intimate, and intellectually and interactionally rigorous. We need a reexamination of such critical processes, their yields and possibilities, as we figure out the direction for our work of education and justice now. The persistent lags in realizing the excellence of all our children, pervasive disproportionate and stereotype-based approaches to discipline, and entrenched practices of cultural incompetence which continue to restrain pedagogic capacities not only in our present but for the very soon coming future of reconfigured racial and ethnic national demographics, are among the significant matters which require urgent pedagogical responsiveness. We encourage submissions that investigate such issues, and that consider new ways in which race will matter at the intersections of identity, knowing, teaching and learning. As part of such submissions we are also keenly interested in fresh pedagogical and curriculum practices that will help to release students’ scientific and artistic inventiveness, dispositions of daring and creativity, and intellectual range and reflexivity, which are so vital for a truly radically inclusive democracy.

Proposals for presentations under this theme may include exploration of the following: 

• Rethinking the relationship between the liberal arts and the practical arts;
• Critical models of teaching at the intersections of science, mathematics and race;
• New considerations in humanities knowledge at the intersection of race;
• Indigenous pedagogies and non-traditional pedagogies;
• Innovations in culturally responsive teaching;
• Reimagining the relationships among pedagogy, scholarship and community or the scholarship of engagement;
• Pedagogy of student activism. 

Click here to view submission guidelines