I have been thinking about something a little more than usual lately given our upcoming conference in Chicago – our FOURTH annual! I’ve been pondering what makes our conference unique and how to convey that to people who haven’t been part of the Critical Dietetics community up ’til now.
Our gatherings are indeed different than the big ones we might typically attend i.e. Dietitians of Canada, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, etc. And our annual meetings are novel not by accident, but on purpose. You see we deliberately keep our registration fees low as a means to encourage as many people to attend as possible. We wish to share and create knowledge from multiple (often underrepresented) sources. We engage with each other through diverse means including the arts and humanities. We tend to be a small group (we enjoyed 70 attendees in Wolfville), but we believe that the right people come together at the right time for all the right reasons. And, we like to eat well and will pay appropriately for locally-sourced food.
Our association is democratic, inclusive, and non-hierarchical. We work to accommodate underwaged and unwaged attendees. We believe that people who want to come and share their wisdom will join in equally with each other and submit abstracts for full and thoughtful consideration by the conference organizers. It puts us on common ground. For those who are interested, we now offer pre-conference workshops where session facilitators can generate revenue by hosting a learning event in advance of the conference. We see this as an equitable compromise to the conventional approach taken at other conferences.
My experience at the bigger, more conventional conferences is that certain privileged few (the chosen presenters or the keynotes) are afforded airfare, meals, accommodations, and honoraria to attend. And, yes, I have counted myself among that group in past years. But that’s not the culture we abide by here. And, although we are part of a system that attempts to reproduce a culture of privilege for the already privileged, we actively work to resist and subvert and try to offer something different. That’s Critical Dietetics.
So, in the spirit of joining together to celebrate the themes of our 4th International Critical Dietetics Conference and honour the wisdom that comes from the most unlikely of voices, consider sharing your work. We would love to hear your stories, your research, your art-making in the name of asking how can we make this a better, more inclusive and democratic profession.
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