2018 National Gathering: Invitation for Proposals


Invitation for Proposals Visual Graphic

Transformative Imaginations:
Decarceration and Liberatory Futures

Invitation for Proposals
Imagining America 18th National Gathering

Chicago, Illinois | Friday-Sunday, October 19-21, 2018
Submission Deadline: Friday, June 22



We are facing the largest social crisis in modern U.S. history, and it is a crisis that, on some level, affects every one of us. From children to seniors, foreign nationals to U.S. citizens, the United States’ carceral system locks up more than 10 million individuals each year through a vast network of prisons, jails, juvenile correctional facilities, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and state psychiatric centers. This system restricts the lives of nearly 5 million individuals currently on probation or parole, and it destabilizes an exponential number of families and communities. Addressing a crisis of this magnitude requires moving beyond a public discourse limited by preconceptions of what is achievable.

Imagining America believes that the arts, design, and the humanities provide us with tools and practices that can free our imaginations as to what is possible. The 2018 Imagining America National Gathering seeks to bring people together to imagine, explore, and make real a world beyond incarceration and to envision liberatory futures – futures that include worlds where resources invested in carceral economies are directed to housing, health care, and public education.

Drawing on traditions of speculative, utopian, and Afrofuturist inquiry while engaging with transformative work already in progress, Imagining America invites proposals that advance dialogue, research, programs, and advocacy regarding the impacts of carceral systems – both historical and contemporary – on our communities. Proposals need not explicitly address incarceration, but should contribute to a vision of justice motivated by the healing of communities and individuals.

We encourage proposals from currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, people directly impacted by the carceral system, activists, community organizers, artists, designers, students, faculty, and staff from IA member campuses and beyond, and others engaged in liberatory visioning and work. We especially encourage proposals that highlight collaboration, dialogue, community engagement, and creative forms of expression.

This year’s gathering also builds upon current work being done by Illinois Humanities through an initiative called Envisioning Justice (https://envisioningjustice.org). Using the arts and humanities, Envisioning Justice seeks to strengthen efforts in Chicago to reimagine our criminal legal system and is inspired by a commitment to justice, accountability, safety, support, and restoration for all people. Launched in 2017, Envisioning Justice will continue through 2019, thereby providing space for the discussions, works, and imaginings that take place during the gathering to continue.

Session Formats

Proposed sessions should be as interactive as possible, providing opportunities for sharing and co-creating practical and theoretical frameworks for engaged art, scholarship, and design. We ask that each session include a participatory component, such as break-out conversations, facilitated dialogue, individual reflections/meditations, and healing circles.

  • Performance, Actions, and Dialogue: These sessions provide the opportunity for performance-based engagement, with special interest in innovative approaches. Sessions must include ample opportunity for discussion and feedback.
  • Roundtable: Designed to facilitate discussion around a shared topic, issue, or action, roundtables begin with short statements (5-10 minutes) in response to questions distributed in advance by the organizer. The sessions then largely consist of discussion.
  • Workshop: A facilitator sets the agenda, poses opening questions, and organizes participant activities and discussions. The session can focus on specific skill development, problem-solving, resources for higher education-community partnerships, or work and conversation on particular issues.
  • Media Session: We welcome films, video or audio clips, or projects (entire or excerpts) that use new media. The viewing of or listening to media should not take up the entire session; presenters should build dialogue or other ways of engaging the audience into their proposed session descriptions.
  • Pecha Kucha: Brief 6-7 minute thought-collages of basic concepts. One slide is visible for exactly 20 seconds and exactly 20 slides are allowed. This format democratizes the presentations by keeping speakers to the same time limit. Speakers can then integrate core concepts of their talks into the group discussion that follows.


Questions or other session formats in mind? Discuss your ideas with us before submitting your proposal. Email us at 2018gathering@imaginingamerica.org or call us at (530) 297-4640.

Instructions on how to submit your proposal are available on IA’s website at www.imaginingamerica.org >> National Gathering >> Submit a Proposal.