Memorial University Press withdrawal from Congress 2021

Apr 27th, 2021

Terri Coles

Memorial University Press withdrawal from Congress 2021

The below statement represents the response by Memorial University Press (formerly ISER Books) to the actions  of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences and report by its  Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization  following the racial profiling event  that occurred at Congress 2019.

The Dean's Office appreciates the attention by the Director and the Board of Memorial University Press  to these  important questions.  The issues raised are important to HSS and we welcome the opportunity to engage in conversation. The Dean's Office is in full  support of  the Board's decision to  not participate  at  Congress 2021.


Memorial University Press (formerly ISER Books) has decided not to participate as an exhibitor at the 2021 Congress of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences.

We stand in solidarity with the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA) and their decision to withdraw from Congress 2021 as outlined in their statements of February 9th and 20th, 2021. We share their deep commitment to truly confronting and eliminating colonialism and anti-Black racism throughout the humanities and social sciences and all of Canadian academia. We find the Federation’s early failure to act, and then very slow response to the BCSA’s requests, extremely disappointing and problematic. While the Federation met requests after the BCSA’s withdrawal, and has expressed its commitment to work on anti-Black racism and social justice through the release of its AC-EDID report on April 9th, it is essential that the Federation immediately move beyond the report to concrete, demonstrable actions that promote anti-racism and decolonialization within both the organization and Canadian academic life more broadly.

The BCSA did not call on other participants in Congress to take a particular action but rather asked that colleagues discuss the issues the BCSA had raised and make decisions for themselves. In her commentary in Typescript (Mar 12, 2021), rosalind hampton identified this moment as an opportunity: “Beyond whether or not academic associations participate in Congress this year, overlapping contexts provide an opportunity for all of us who claim commitments to social justice to think seriously about the kinds of relationships we wish to develop and with whom, the collective work we wish to do, and the kinds of futures we wish to build.”

This spring represents a pivotal moment in the press’s history, when after more than fifty-five years, ISER Books is transitioning to the new name of Memorial University Press. As we begin a new chapter, it feels particularly timely to take up the BCSA’s challenge. It is crucial that we critically examine our own structures and policies and make concrete changes in order to better confront and eliminate racism and exclusion and consciously create increased space for the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) authors. Members of Memorial University Press will devote time they would have spent at Congress to begin identifying accountable, actionable ways we can combat anti-Black racism and decolonialization in our own practices, through areas including list development, inclusive and culturally sensitive scholarly review processes, marketing and promotion, and building relationships with the larger BIPOC community.

This difficult decision comes after extensive discussion among members of the Memorial University Press team and the ISER/Smallwood Executive Committee that oversees the press, as well as consultation with members of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the HSS Dean’s Office, and the Office of Indigenous Affairs. In identifying better practices and definite actions, we look to extend ongoing discussions and action plans within the press, ISER/Smallwood, and HSS to identify and combat racist practices and social injustice.

Memorial University Press looks forward to being a part of Congress in the future, and to joining with colleagues at other Canadian university presses and associations, as well as with the Federation itself, to implement meaningful anti-racism initiatives, including recommendations contained in the Federation’s AC-EDID report.

Memorial University Press

For any enquiries, contact Diane Tye, ISER Director.


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