Department of Anthropology - Statement on Racism, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization
Anthropology is the study of humans in all our social, cultural, linguistic and biological diversity and complexity. As a community of anthropologists, we challenge ideologies about the legitimacy and fixity of racial categories through our understanding of human diversity, highlighting lived experiences and illuminating the processes that underpin and reproduce inequality and injustice.
The concept of race arose within the historic context of European colonialism and was a primary justification for white Europeans to discriminate against and oppress the people they exploited, enslaved, displaced, and subjected to violence. The discipline of Anthropology was a part of that system, and played a moral, political, and intellectual role in rationalizing and perpetuating systemic racism and colonization. The work of Anthropologists has also been crucial in dismantling the myths of race. It demonstrates that, despite the broad range of observable variation in humans, we are genetically similar and cannot be divided into distinct biological categories. There is no biological basis for racial classification. The deep historic roots of the concept of race, however, have firmly embedded it in societal structures that continue to affect our lives today. Race is a socio-cultural reality, whether people are disadvantaged or privileged by it. Racism is real and systemic, and negatively impacts and threatens the lives of people who are racialized as Indigenous, Black, Asian or people of colour, while reproducing advantages for settlers and people perceived to be white.
As a discipline we must be continually reflexive in practice and challenge systems that perpetuate, enable, and reinforce colonization and white supremacy. We are committed to building understanding and acceptance of difference among human beings, and identifying and fighting structural racism and inequality. As anthropologists in Canada, Ontario, and London, we also have particular responsibility to Indigenous communities. Past research by Anthropologists has been used to support colonial systems, and has too often been extractive and exploitative of Indigenous knowledge, cultures, and histories. In this context we strive towards active and meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities at all stages of the research process. We commit to conducting research that serves the interests of the communities with whom we work, and the process of truth and reconciliation. This commitment is inspired by our pursuit of social justice as well as our responsibilities to uphold treaty relationships with the Indigenous peoples on whose land Western University is now located and in the London area. This includes historical populations of Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak and Chonnonton peoples, as well as members of Indigenous communities of Southwestern Ontario, the Chippewas of the Thames, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Munsee-Delaware Nation.
As a community of anthropology scholars and educators at Western University, we are committed to confronting systematic oppression and fostering an environment that is fully equitable and inclusive of diversity. We aim to ground our work in accountability and solidarity: accountability to communities within and beyond our institution who are racialized, Queer, disabled, or living in poverty; and solidarity with others who join in this struggle for equity and justice. This involves being ready and willing to listen and respond to the concerns of members of the multiple, intersecting equity seeking communities within our classrooms, our hallways, our research, and communities. Our commitment and work is driven by a sense of hope and optimism: we are guided by the work of justice-seeking Anthropologists who have come before us, and others who are doing this work today. The history of the discipline often erases voices from the margins: Queer, disabled, Black, Indigenous, and racialized voices of resistance, who have pushed the boundaries of the discipline in order to better it, often at immense personal cost. We honour and amplify these voices through our teaching and research, just as we seek to uplift contemporary scholars who seek the same kind of justice.
Updated: September 3, 2021