2022 Quarry Farm Symposium “Abolition Studies”

Sept 30 — Oct 2, 2022

Elmira, New York

The Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College is hosting its annual Quarry Farm Symposium during the Fall 2022 semester, from September 30th to October 1st, organized around the theme of Abolition Studies. This year’s Keynote Address will be delivered by Sarah Haley, author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity. The annual symposium gathers scholars from various fields each year around a theme related to Mark Twain studies or the nineteenth-century more broadly and is held at the historic Quarry Farm site in Elmira, NY. The Center is currently planning for the 2022 gathering to be an in-person event, and will be monitoring the conditions of the continuously evolving pandemic over the course of the next twelve months leading up to the weekend of the symposium. 

We seek to take an intentionally transhistorical approach to the field of abolition studies through panels and discussions that attend to the long duree of abolitionist thought, activism, and organizing from the 19th to the 21st centuries. While there is robust scholarship on movements to abolish chattel slavery in the US before 1865, and there is growing interest – both scholarly and popular – in late 20th- and 21st-century prison and police abolition, this symposium will look to explicitly bring these two historical epochs into conversation across what Saidya Hartman has called “the nonevent of emancipation” towards richer analysis of, for example, carcerality, rights, social and civil death, enclosure, and criminalization. We are especially interested in presentations that rigorously trouble the very notion of continuity, recognizing both the persistence of what Douglas A. Blackmon has called “slavery by another name” as well as the continuing “acts of resistance and sabotage” against racial terror and carceral capture identified by Sarah Haley and others occurring in the decades of transition from the late 19th to the early 20th century. That is, we invite analysis not only of forces of capture but also of resistance.

With this long history of mechanisms of captivity and modes of radical resistance in mind, this symposium will emphasize the interconnecting relationship between abolitionist movements working against the enduring legacies of U.S. racism in carceral forms from the 19th to the 21st centuries. And in recognition of recent insightful work in the field of critical prison and carcerality studies by thinkers including Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Erica Meiners, Liat Ben-Moshe, Kelly Lytle Hernández, Harsha Walia, Savannah Shange, Luana Ross, Eric Stanley, and others, we seek to enrich understandings of how carceral logics and institutions develop and expand across time to iterate in ever greater spaces of both public and private life.