Imagining Emancipation

Imagining Emancipation in the Atlantic World, 1750-1888

In June 2023, an interdisciplinary network called Imagining Emancipation in the Atlantic World was launched with a two-day workshop at the University of Exeter (UK). The network aims to bring together social historians, philosophers, historians of political thought, and art historians to recover how diverse actors – including enslaved litigants, reformers, colonial officials, and Black and African diasporic people – imagined post-slavery futures for the societies they inhabited and confronted fraught emancipatory realities. Participants at the Exeter workshop presented work grounded in a variety of thematic registers, from liminal geographies to post-emancipation unfreedom and the politics of memory. We learned about the struggles, visions, and plans of a range of actors engaged in the work of emancipation, from Haitian abolitionists forging networks of correspondence to Liberian citizens building a post-slavery republic, European anti-slavery campaigners criticising plans for gradual emancipation, and Afro-Brazilian women in the Luso-Atlantic world embarking on ‘counter-voyages’ that challenge our understanding of the Middle Passage. To build on this promising start, the network will reconvene again at the University of Copenhagen in June 2024 for a two-day conference and welcome new and past participants. We invite papers that explore eighteenth and nineteenth-century visions of emancipation from any region or people in the Atlantic World from 1750 to 1888. We welcome papers on this broad topic but are also interested in papers that broach the following themes: the temporality of emancipation, contested spaces of emancipation, abolitionism in Africa, alternative historiographies of emancipation, inter-imperial connections and constellations, the impact of Atlantic abolitionism in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and global and transatlantic conversations and networks.

The conference will take place at the University of Copenhagen from 13-14 June 2024. During the conference, participants will present abbreviated versions of their papers on pre-set panels to facilitate maximum engagement and feedback among conference participants.

Steering Committee: Yesenia Barragan, Sandrine Bergès, Kelly Brignac, Brandon Byrd, Ross Carroll, Gunvor Simonsen, Nicolai von Eggers Mariegaard, and Norma Watson.