The 9th Annual Critical Race Conference: Compassion, Complicity and Conciliation The Politics, Cultures and Economies of ‘Doing Good’

UPDATE: The deadline for paper abstracts has been extended to 16 March 2009.

UPDATE: The website for the conference is located at

I am happy to further distribute this announcement of a call for paper abstracts (on short notice, my apologies) for a conference that I hold in high esteem — I presented at the previous one in Toronto, and I will make a point of taking part in every one of their conferences to come. In terms of the interests and perspectives at the heart of the Open Anthropology project, the conferences of the Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equality (R.A.C.E.), with their focus on issues of racism, colonialism, and imperialism, make it a  fairly unique and important venue for scholars with common interests in these subjects to meet. This is especially propitious given that both in mainstream academia now, and the mainstream media in many parts of the world, there has been growing recognition of the salience of contemporary imperialism and current struggles for decolonization. Indeed, as has periodically been done on this blog, to manifest some of these points, lists of newspaper articles from around the world were produced that focused squarely on imperialism and colonialism in the present world order (see here and here), with reference to the increasing number of academic titles that examine such frameworks as well (especially “the new imperialism”).

From what I saw in Toronto, scholars from almost every imaginable discipline in the social sciences and humanities were present, both graduate students and professors, and the discussions were often extremely engaging. In addition, they attracted numerous scholars from across the Caribbean as well, which for me was an added bonus. I plan to participate in the next one, to be held here, in Montreal. In the meantime, I am still hoping to eventually write the report on the Toronto conference that I promised last November.

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The 9th Annual Critical Race Conference

Compassion, Complicity and Conciliation:

The Politics, Cultures and Economies of ‘Doing Good’

Montreal, June 5-7 2009
Concordia and McGill Universities

Global political activism, official apologies, charity, advocacy and solidarity campaigns, ‘rescue’ missions, truth and reconciliation hearings, private philanthropy, ‘humanitarian’ interventions…. The politics, cultures and economies of doing good seem to have gained a redemptive, sanctioned and empowering status, which has elevated actions and actors above critical scrutiny. This conference is aimed at interrogating the politics and practice(s) of ‘doing good’. It asks: What is defined as ‘doing good’ and how is it tied to constructions of benevolent others? Who is positioned and empowered to ‘do good’? How is ‘doing good’ historically embedded and what are some of its foreseen and unforeseen consequences? What does an anti-racist and anti-colonial lens reveal about past and present humanitarian actions and interventions, and how might it inform present and future practice(s)? What are the relations between humanitarianism and imperialism? How can these relations be exposed and meaningfully addressed? We invite panels and papers from scholars, activists, and researchers whose work engages an anti-racist, anti-imperialist framework. We welcome papers in French.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

  • Truth and reconciliation commissions
  • The discourses and politics of apologies
  • Dynamics and representations of benevolence
  • The politics of humanitarianism
  • Geopolitics and ethics in the context of empire, colonial relations and histories of citizenship
  • NGOs and the politics of ‘doing good’
  • Cultural activism, coalitions and collaborations
  • Environmental justice vs conservation
  • Hierarchies of ‘doing good’
  • Reproducing colonial hierarchies through “change agents”
  • Racialized and gendered dynamics of compassion
  • Cause-related marketing
  • Working across lines of power in solidarity/coalitions
  • Problematizing Aid (health, medical, food)
  • Exaltations of ‘civil society’
  • Academic-activist research partnerships and interventions
  • Militarization, occupation and humanitarianism

Deadline for abstracts is March 9th, 2009. Please send a 250-500 word abstract with title, keywords and institutional affiliation to, or to Yasmin Jiwani, Communication Studies, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC, H4B 1R6, or Charmaine Nelson, Dept. of Art History, McGill University, 853 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, QC, H3A 2T6.