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College of Arts and Sciences

Abolitionist scholars featured in two virtual events, Nov. 19 & 20

By: Julie McLean
Humanities Scholar Program
November 17, 2020

Abolitionists envision a world in which police, prisons and border control do not exist and all people are emancipated; a world where racial capitalism does not operate, and the promotion of collective well-being is the organizing principle of society. 

In two related virtual events, the Humanities Scholars Program, together with the Africana Studies and Research Center, will examine the topic of abolitionism from a scholarly and community perspective. On Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., Joy James, the Ebenezer Fitch Professor of Humanities at Williams College, will lecture on “Abolitionism and the Captive Maternal.” According to James, "captive maternals" refers to the biological female or feminized counterparts to Black males “most publicly policed, imprisoned and executed by state violence and vigilantism.” 

James’s lecture will be followed by responses from Orisanmi Burton, assistant professor of anthropology at American University; Kristen Wright, Humanities Scholars Program Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University; and Bam Willoughby, doctoral candidate in Africana studies at Cornell University. The responses will be moderated by Zifeng Liu, doctoral candidate in Africana studies at Cornell University. 

The Cornell and larger community will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion about abolitionism and the issues raised in the Nov. 19 event during a second webinar on Friday, Nov. 20, also at 6 p.m. “Shaping Abolitionist Futures: A Community Discussion” will serve as a talk-back and Q&A session. The event will feature the scholars from the previous evening and undergraduate students from the Humanities Scholars Program. Participants do not need to have attended the Nov. 19 event and will be able to pose questions in the chat or on camera.

These events are organized as part of the inaugural semester of the Humanities Scholars Program, a new undergraduate research initiative in the College of Arts & Sciences comprised of juniors majoring or minoring in a humanities field. The program, directed by history Professor Durba Ghosh, is currently recruiting sophomores for its 2021-22 cohort. 

Both events are free and open to the public. Registration in advance is recommended for both events and is available via one link. Questions about the events or the Humanities Scholars Program can be emailed to hum-scholars-program@cornell.edu.