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Abolition Democracies Seminar

Seminar organized by Safae El Khannoussi el Bouidrini, Daniel Loick and Oscar Talbot | Dates: 13 and 27 September 2022, 11 October 2022, 1, 15 and 29 November 2022, 17 and 31 January 2023., 14 and 28 February 2023, 14 and 28 March 2023, 11 and 25 April 2023, 9 and 23 May 2023

The term “abolition democracy” was introduced by sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois in 1935 in his major work Black Reconstruction. One of his basic ideas was that mere formal emancipation from slavery is not enough, but must be accompanied by a fundamental political and economic reconfiguration of the entire society that made slavery possible. Similar perspectives were already developed in many anti-colonial liberation struggles, for example in the Caribbean: Mere release from colonial rule is not enough if it does not also imply a more fundamental economic and political justice. 
Various theorists and political initiatives have subsequently taken up the notion of abolition democracy to recall the unfulfilled aspirations and demands associated with these movements. Fueled by the international Black Lives Matter protests, over the past decade abolitionism has established itself as a comprehensive approach to critical theory and as a current of radical political practice, particularly in North America but also internationally. This movement is underpinned by a similar double perspective that Du Bois already formulated: on the one hand, abolitionist theories scandalize the racist background of mass incarceration and police violence; on the other hand, these institutions should not simply be eliminated while leaving social background conditions intact, but replaced by other institutions of social, political, and cultural participation, such as infrastructures of care and venues for political self-government. The seemingly utopian goal remains the gradual abolition of carceral institutions altogether.

In this research colloquium, we will a.) read together and discuss contemporary literature in abolitionism, b.) present our own current research on abolitionist topics, c.) invite international guests to present their research, especially to facilitate an interdisciplinary and international dialogue. The reading list and schedule will be decided together by the members of the seminar. If you want to participate, please send an email to Daniel Loick: It is strongly encouraged that you participate for the entire semester rather than individual sessions. The seminar will take place every two weeks Tuesdays, 6-8 pm.