Cultural diversity and representation in publishing were the focus of an empowering speech by Bodour Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association at the 7th edition of the Estoril Conference, recently held in Lisbon.
Held over two days, the Estoril Conference is a platform to promote an open and intergenerational dialogue to develop a more inclusive and sustainable future. To create an effective change, the conference brings together global citizens inspiring the co-creation of effective and solution-driven coalitions.
In her address to delegates, Bodour made a poignant speech using case studies as well as her own experiences as an Arab, Muslim woman in publishing to underscore the vital role that representation plays in creating a mirror for humanity – the theme of the conference session.
Diversity and gender equality have long been spoken of within the publishing sector, but Bodour explained that it is a subject that requires vigilance and constant attention from the wider industry in order to achieve success for all stakeholders.
As an example, the IPA President used the case of acclaimed American poet Yi-Fen Chou whose inclusion in the 2015 American Poetry Anthology caused an uproar when it was discovered that she was, in fact, a Caucasian male poet by the name of Michael Hudson – whose submission was repeatedly rejected until he adopted a nom de plume from a different culture, and gender than his own. Bodour went on to explain that the debate as to whether the poem was accepted on merit, or whether prejudice, gender, and race played a part in its publication is a prime example of the reflection and discourse that the publishing community must undertake in order to enact positive change within the industry – change which will prevent the institutional marginalization of authors and publishers from all backgrounds. She added that as a result of these challenging conversations, readers will have a greater opportunity to access content that best reflects the world around them.
Using her personal reflections to further underscore her message, Bodour went on to share her own struggles with prejudice and discrimination based on her ethnicity, nationality, religion, and gender.
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