Three-day conference on participation, communication, and equity

On April 27-29, the large research conference GoPar2022 took place digitally via Zoom with the School of Education and Communication at Jönköping University (JU), as host. The conference gathered about 170 participants from around the world and for three days discussed issues of participation, communication, and equity in contemporary societies.

From the film "My People - The Sami People" by Åsa Simma, head of Giron Sámi Teáhter, that was shown at the opening ceremony.

The international GoPar conference brought together researchers, cultural figures, leaders from poltics and civil society, as well as actors from the media and other sectors. All gathered from across the world and Sweden to discuss issues on participation, communcation and equity in contemporary societies. The conference was organised by the Communication, Culture and Diversity (CCD) research environment and the participation and inclusion think-tank DoIT.

The conference's theme was discussed in a series of workshops, panel discussions and keynote presentations

The opening ceremony took place on 27 April, and representatives of JU as well as the Swedish Research Council, Riksteatern and Giron Sámi Theáter gave welcome speeches.

See the opening ceremony here:

Among the speakers were Ingela Holmström, Associate Professor of Sign Language with a focus on bilingualism, who gave a speech entitled "Participation in practice: a paradox". She described how, globally, there are a range of regulations, official documents, declarations and ratifications of various conventions that aim to ensure participation and equity for all citizens. However, in reality, accessibility is still far from satisfactory. There are often paradoxes between the formal declarations and practices of different countries. In her lecture, Ingela Holmström highlighted such paradoxes through examples from the research project "Participation for all?". Participation for all is, in fact, a fantasy - and disabled people are rarely involved or consulted regarding their requirements and experiences.

Tobias Hübinette, Associate Professor at Karlstad University, gave a talk called "Researching race in a color-blind country: Mixed-race Swedes inhabiting a third position in colour-blind Sweden". The lecture consisted of an account of a study on multiracial people in Sweden as inhabiting a third position. Sweden was introduced as a "color-blind" country governed by a sharp division between the so-called Swedes and immigrants and where those with a multiracial background get placed in a separate category.The study has looked specifically at these through individual interviews and autobiographical texts and shows the difficulties of having a multiracial background in contemporary Sweden, and the difficulty of being placed in a the "third position" between or beyond "Swedes" and "immigrants".

“This year's GoPar conference showed a fine balance in terms of the subject choices and minority groups that were discussed. Together the various presentations and panels showed that there is still a great need to try to break up as well as to overcome rigid dichotomies and create alliances between different groups,” says Tobias Hübinette.

One of the international speakers was Jon Fox, professor at Bristol University, who presented "Everyday integration: The local context, practices and mobilities of integration". John Fox proposed a new approach to integration that is inclusive, bottom-up and local, aimed at lessening the barriers of social distance. For example, he believes that integration includes everyone, not just immigrants; that it is people who are agents of integration, not the state and that integration begins locally, not nationally.

A total of 17 presentations, discussion forums and more informal activities were held during the three days.

“What caught me most were everyone's stories and experiences. Those, for example, about participation in society as a deaf politician or as an artistic director in the theater. About how art can increase accessibility and opportunities for young people with an immigrant background, and about how the social contract sometimes needs to be renegotiated from the starting point of the minority group’s lived experience. This, and much more, made me think about the privileges we usually take for granted and how we can work for greater opportunities for participation and equity in Sweden, Europe and the world,” says Maria Bäcke, co-leader of CCD.

The conference was held in collaboration with the Swedish Research Council.