Upon entering New College’s William Doo auditorium for the annual Decolonizing Our Minds conference, attendees were made immediately aware of the concerted efforts made by the organizers towards inclusivity. The hallways were marked with signs pointing to gender neutral washrooms, a child-minding space and a greeting table littered with free condoms and pins that urged people to “challenge homophobia, racism, antisemitism” among other forms of discrimination. It was made clear that the conference was not only an inclusive event, but one that sought to challenge all forms of inequality.

Decolonizing Our Minds is an annual conference organized by the Equity Studies Student Union in an effort to “address how different groups practice resistance.” The theme of DOM 2013 is ‘decolonial love’ and the mandate -- as outlined on their many posters plastered across campus -- is to “focus on the affective and emotional narratives and journeys of decolonization by looking at the ways in which individuals and communities practice love.”

The conference attempted to look at ‘decolonial love’ in two distinct ways: self-love and community love. Self love is “how individuals can care for themselves in response to structural oppression and colonial domination.” Whereas community love is when those same individuals unite in solidarity against structural oppression and colonial domination in the realm of social activism.

During her opening remarks, Soma Chatterjee, a current PhD candidate in Adult Education and Community Development at OISE, contextualized and simplified the issue of ‘decolonial love.’ She used her own experiences as an Indian immigrant and an academic; she discussed her role as an academic by describing the education system as being “imperfect” but instead of giving up she instead opted to look at it “as a site for social justice work.”

In an interview with the newspaper, panelist Bedour Alagraa, University of Toronto alumni and current Equity and Campaigns Organizer at Ryerson University, described her search for ‘decolonial love’ as “looking for a way to re-piece the fragments of myself and my history in a way that is full of dignity and glory and beauty. I see love as the decolonial act, since so much of the purpose of colonialism was to rip apart families, rip apart minds and keep people from loving themselves and their communities.”

Despite the amount of concord and overlap amongst the panel on most issues, panelist Christiana Collison repeatedly and unapologetically denounced the term ‘self-love.’ In an interview with the newspaper, the author of the McGill Daily column Tyrone Speaks explained that she dislikes the term due to “it’s inaccessibility” by those she referred to as “scarred,” “fractured,” and “broken.” She elaborated that ‘self-love’ “...is incredibly individualized. It places immense amounts of emphasis on the individuals to fix themselves up, which again highlights self-love’s inaccessibility and privilege…”

Overall, the panel discussions were informative; each panel member offered a unique perspective on what are often complicated and intimidating issues. During the course of the conference everything from Indigenous spiritual beliefs, hip hop philosophy, white privilege, self-care, and masturbation were discussed. The myriad of topics effectively demonstrated the intersectionality and overlapping nature of social justice activism.

The conference encouraged people to move away from their own abstractions of love and towards a more concrete understanding of how it can be practiced personally and used as a tool to combat social injustice.

Although they had not encountered the idea of ‘decolonial love’ before, many audience members left the conference with an expanding and inclusive consciousness that accommodates more diverse notions of what constitutes ‘love.’

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Annual Decolonizing Our Minds conference challenges forms of inequality
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