As we head to our first truly hybrid conference, in Oslo and online this summer, it is my pleasure to facilitate a follow-up discussion on diversity and inclusion for our Science Fiction Research Association membership.
In response to feedback on the 2021 conference program, especially by long-time members, last year’s Executive Committee started to discuss how our association can perform social justice in its institutional practice—in addition to appreciating it in textual analyses. We hope, in other words, to grow towards becoming an organization that puts the “Co” in “CoFuturisms”!
Such conversations have been already transpiring in our modest field of speculative/fantastic studies. Ongoing changes are being made within the International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts by its leadership and the BIPOC Caucus, for example. Among other changes, IAFA’s ICFA conference now offers a physical Counter Space and a conversational Brave Space as part of its event programming. WisCon, the feminist SF and fantasy conference, has grappled with these issues for many years, with the results of those productive conversations evident in its now-standard conference Spaces and Policies.
Another illustration of diversity/inclusion efforts in a related academic discipline: in the mid-2010s, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (or the SCMS), one of the largest media studies organizations, advanced a free trial 2-year membership for Indigenous scholars, as a way to signal a welcoming space for Native, Aboriginal, First Nations, and similar researchers.
For many BIPOC scholars, paying for an SFRA membership might come secondarily after joining a key association in one’s discipline (e.g., the MLA)—or one’s main inter-discipline (e.g., in the field of Native studies, the North American Indigenous Studies Association; in Asian American studies, the Association for Asian American Studies; or in film/media studies, the SCMS). Giving potential long-term members a free trial run and taste of our organization’s unique intellectual community would be a hospitable gesture and go far in encouraging minority and global scholars to become members of a 2nd or 3rd academic organization.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) issues are not exclusive of other discussions we have been holding among the SFRA EC—for instance,
- How to widen our scope of country representatives so as to include more participants who are not from the Global North
- How to conduct better outreach to members of non-traditional class-, gender-, sexuality-, age-, ability-, and other thriving communities of intellectuals, educators, and artists who love our family of genres
- How to support our rich breadth of scholars through more extensive networking and mentorship activities as well as improved travel and research funds.
- And so on.
So at SFRA Oslo this summer, there will be a “DEIB” themed discussion panel that invites you to share suggestions and proposals for widening the reach of our organization, for making it more safe and encouraging to join for diverse thinkers and creatives in SF studies, and for reflecting conscientiously on the outcomes of such efforts as we move together into the future.
It will be held both online (I will host virtually) and in Auditorium 2, on Wed. June 29, from 10:15-11:15 a.m. (Central European Time).
Especially but not only for non-tenure-track researchers and adjuncts; for BIPOC and first-generation college-graduate scholars; for global and diasporic lovers of our family of genres; and for LGBTQIA faculty and storytellers—who may be working under varied socio-economic and embodied conditions—we want to hear ideas of how do we facilitate a rich, diverse, inclusive membership? And a broader range of research topics and methods reflecting the sheer scope of global SF communities?
- Come with your concrete suggestions for practice, policy, evaluation, finance, organizing
- Come with your experiences with, and knowledge of, other associations’ (or programs’/ institutions’) imaginative, effective DEIB changes
- If you wish to share writing, reduce it to ONE page or less—outline, paragraph summary, bulleted list—to display onscreen, online and in our Oslo meeting room with fellow attendees.
- [We only have an hour, so try to be succinct as possible; I will take notes of this session for the EC’s and our membership’s further discussion.]
And come with your curiosity for the future,
Film and science fiction studies
Georgia Institute of Technology