Skip to main content


On the Possibility and Impossibility of Reparations for Slavery and Colonialism: Panel 4

General Programming

May 14, 2021

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?

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)