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Abolitionist scholars featured in virtual events

Today’s abolitionist activists have renewed a longstanding vision for a world in which systems and symbols of racism no longer operate.

They have mobilized around shared goals of creating a world in which police, prisons and border control do not exist, 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 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” can be biologically female or feminized counterparts to Black males who may have been unjustly policed, imprisoned or executed by state violence or other means. An example of a contemporary “captive maternal” that James has referenced is the late Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, the New York City man who died in 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by police. Erica Garner died in 2017.

James’ lecture will be followed by responses from: Orisanmi Burton, assistant professor of anthropology at American University; Kristen Wright, Ph.D. ’20, a Humanities Scholars Program postdoctoral fellow; and Bam Willoughby, doctoral candidate in Africana studies. The responses will be moderated by Zifeng Liu, doctoral candidate in Africana studies.

The Cornell and larger community will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion about abolitionism and the issues raised in the first webinar during a second, “Shaping Abolitionist Futures: A Community Discussion,” Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. The event will serve as a talk-back and Q&A session, featuring the scholars from the previous evening and undergraduate students from the Humanities Scholars Program. Attendance at the first webinar is not required.

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 and Sciences comprising juniors majoring or minoring in a humanities field. The program, directed by Durba Ghosh, professor of history (A&S), is currently recruiting sophomores for its 2021-22 cohort.

Both events are free and open to the public. Advance registration is recommended for both events and can be done here. Email the Humanities Scholars Program for more information on the events or the program.

Julie McLean is program coordinator for the Humanities Scholars Program.

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Gillian Smith