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On the Possibility and Impossibility of Reparations for Slavery and Colonialism

General Programming

dateMarch 17, 2021 timeWednesday, 1:00pm EDT locationVirtual Event
  • The Department of Anthropology
  • The Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Event title

On June 7th 2020, a group of Black demonstrators scaled a statue of King Leopold II in Brussels, Belgium and brandished the flag of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; chanting one word repeatedly: “Reparations”. Such demands for reparations for slavery and colonialism are occurring across multiple scales and locales, in various forms, and have intensified in the context of the global movement for Black Lives. An increasing number of institutions, NGO’s and even states are responding to reparations demands: sometimes by acknowledging their moral legitimacy, rarely by addressing their material merits.

This webinar series investigates the significance of a global turn towards demands for reparatory justice for slavery and colonialism, and probes the terms upon which reparations would be capable of both enacting repair and accounting for social inequality in capitalist, white supremacist, and settler colonial contexts. Acknowledging the global implications of racialized forms of oppression, the series prioritizes an international framing of the question of reparatory justice and asks us to ponder the possibilities and the impossibilities of reparations for slavery and colonialism: What is the relationship between reparatory justice and the possibility of the abolition of the carceral state? What could material reparations for histories of colonialism and enslavement look like, how might they be adjudicated and administered? What is the relationship between claims for reparation, studies of repair, and liberal progressive state logics?

Please note that your registration will sign you up for all of the webinars in the series.


Wednesday March 17th; 1-3pm EDT

Welcome by Howard Rechavia-Taylor and Anna Schirrer, Professor David Scott
Keynotes in conversation: Katherine Franke (Columbia University) and Jovan Scott Lewis (Berkeley)

Monday March 22nd; 1-3pm EDT

Reparations on a Global Scale
Ralph Wilde (University College London) “Colonial Justice in International Law
Vasuki Nesiah (New York University) “Colonialism and (International) Law
Ahmed Reid (Bronx, CUNY) "Garvey’s 1920 Declaration: Rights and Reparations"

Discussant: Keston Perry (UWE Bristol)

Wednesday March 24th; 1-3pm EDT

Epistemologies of Repair
Zaira Simone (Graduate Center, City University of New York) “Reading Caribbean Visions of Repair”
Nicole Immler (University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht) “What is Meant by ‘Repair’ when Claiming to Repair Colonial Wrongs?
Jovan Scott Lewis (UC Berkeley) “Criminal Repair

Discussant: Roseline Armange (U of Michigan)

Wednesday April 28th; 1-3pm EDT

Colonial Reckoning
Cresa Pugh (Harvard University) “The Afterlife of Cultural Death: On the Promise of Restitution for the Benin Bronzes”
Lyndsey Beutin (McMaster University) “'Slavery in Africa’ and Other Tired Tropes: How Anti-trafficking Rhetoric Undermines Reparations Organizing"
Roseline Armange (University of Michigan) "Racial Terminology, Positionality, and Reparations in the Francophone Caribbean"

Discussant: Laura Bini Carter (GC, CUNY)

Monday May 3rd; 1-3pm EDT

Ecologies of Repair
Andrea Baldwin (Virginia Tech University) & Natasha Mortley (University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston Jamaica) "Caribbean Women and Reparatory Justice: Reclaiming, Rebuilding, and Restoring Communities through Migration"
Laura Bini Carter (The Graduate Center, City University of New York) "Reconnaissance - Reparations - Reconciliation: Triptych for a more just Guadeloupe?"

Discussant: Alyssa James (Columbia)

Monday May 10th; 1-3pm EDT

Reparations within and beyond the Law
Yukiko Koga (Yale University )“Post-imperial Reckoning: The Unmaking of Empire and Transitional Injustice in East Asia”
Howard Rechavia-Taylor (Columbia University) "The Figure of the Jew and German Colonialism at Court"
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò (Georgetown) “Reparations and Climate Justice?”
Anna Schirrer (Columbia University) “Reparative Reason: Multiple Terms of Redress

Discussant: Aparna Gopalan (Harvard)