Slavery and Emancipation

Slavery and Emancipation

Historically, the institution of slavery was the focus of a great deal of philosophical research. Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Mill, Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Locke, Rousseau, Paine, Wilberforce, Grotius, Pufendorf, Nietzsche, Marx, and many others, considered such topics as the definition of slavery, the rightness or wrongness of slavery, which sorts of people could or should be enslaved, and whether (and if so, when) they should be emancipated. In recent years, by contrast, philosophers have shown little interest in slavery. Yet they have nonetheless produced a plethora of work on related topics, such as freedom and equality. This is not because slavery is no longer with us; indeed, according to some accounts there are more slaves now than at any other time in history. Given that 2013 marks the 175th anniversary of the final emancipation of all enslaved persons in the British Empire, this seems an appropriate time to renew our philosophical focus on slavery and on those who enslave and are enslaved.

Possible topics to be addressed include, but are not restricted to:

  • What is slavery? How is slavery different from other forms of unfreedom/inequality/labour etc?
  • What was mistaken about historical arguments for slavery?
  • How do we best explain the wrongness of slavery? Why were the actions of slaveowners, slave traders, or those involved in the initial enslavement, wrong?
  • Do people not involved in slavery have obligations to oppose slavery?
  • Are slaves obliged to resist their own enslavement?
  • Can a person consent to be a slave?
  • What is the relationship between slavery and sexism/racism/ableism/heteronormativity etc?
  • What do slave narratives tell us about the nature or wrongness of slavery or about therightness of emancipation?
  • What is emancipation?
  • Who can emancipate whom, when, and from what?
  • Is emancipation all that is owed to slaves? Does the legacy of slavery and emancipation require further action? 

We welcome expressions of interest from graduate students, from junior researchers, and from established scholars. If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please submit, to both convenors, an abstract of 500-1000 words (or a complete paper), by Friday 31st May 2013.

We will expect a full version of your paper on Emancipation Day, Thursday 1 st August 2013. We hope this will give participants the opportunity to read the papers in advance and to give and receive more detailed feedback during the workshop.

Panel Convenors:

Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman (Michigan)

Email: natcole@umich.edu

Simon Roberts-Thomson

Email: serobertsthomson@gmail.com 

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