The Ninth Quarry Farm Symposium “Abolition Studies” sought 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 looked 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. The symposium was 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, it invited 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, thesymposium emphasized 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.
Includes abstracts, images, and professional bios
Sarah Haley, “Gender and the Abolitionist Present”
SESSION ONE: 19th-Century Carceral Histories
Alex Alston, “Animal Afterlives: 19th Century Abolitionism & The Discourse of Species”
Margarita Lila Rosa, “Riotous Women, Criminalization, and the Voyeuristic Press in 1890s California”
SESSION TWO: Anti/Carceral Texts
LaVelle Ridley, “Imaginative Abolition, Political Life Writing, and Black Trans Feminist Blueprints”
remus jackson, “‘This is the kind of society I’m looking for, anyway’: Krysta Morningstarr & The Radical Potential of Prisoner’s Comics”
Srimayee Basu, “The Entanglements of Emancipation and Juvenile Discipline in the Early Black Prison Memoir”
SESSION THREE: CONTEMPORARY RESONANCES
Michelle-Velasquez-Potts, “Slow Death and the Domestication of Indefinite Detention”
Kia Turner & Darion Wallace, “Exploring Anti-Carceral Education: Towards Mapping and Historicizing Contemporary Educators’ Theory and Praxis in Abolitionist Terms”
Christopher Paul Harris, “The Last President: Notes on Abolition and the (un)Making of the World System”
SESSION FOUR: 19th-Century Anti-Carceral Literary Critique
Matt Seybold, “Mark Twain, The Abolitionist”
M. Cecilia Azar, “Liberating the Punchline: Abolitionist Practices in Running One Thousand Miles for Freedom“
OTHER PAPERS (Not Recorded)
- Thomas Dichter, “Captivity and Abolition in Boarding School Literature: Between Elmira and Carlisle”
- Cait N. Parker, “‘In Love, Devotion, and Continuous Struggle’: Revolutionary Lesbian Abolitionists, 1970s-1990s”
- Henry Washington, Jr. “Criminalis Sequitur Ventrum: Post-Slavery Discipline’s Biological Myth of Origin”
Jesse A. Goldberg is Assistant Professor of American Literature at New Mexico Highlands University and co-editor of Queer Fire: Liberation and Abolition, a special issue of the journal GLQ. Previously, they taught at Longwood University and Cornell University, and have worked with the Penn State Restorative Justice Initiative and the Cornell Prison Education Program. Their academic writing is published and forthcoming in the journals Women’s Studies; ASAP/Journal; College Literature; Public Culture; Callaloo; Women & Performance; MELUS; and CLA Journal as well as the edited collections Teaching Literature and Writing in Prisons; The Routledge Guide to Alternative Futurisms; Unsettling Poetry Pedagogy; Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print; and Toni Morrison on Mothers and Motherhood. Currently, they are working on a book manuscript titled Abolition Time: Grammars of Law, Poetics of Justice.
Nancy Quintanilla is an Assistant Professor of English and Modern Languages at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She received her PhD in English from Cornell University where she specialized in U.S. Latino/a Literature with an interdisciplinary focus on diaspora, gender, and Central American studies. She is originally from Los Angeles, CA and has a BA from the University of California, Irvine in English and Global Cultures.
Nancy has published book reviews and peer-reviewed articles in journals such as MLA: Options for Teaching, Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano/a Studies, and Label Me Latina/o. At Cal Pomona, she teaches ethnic literature courses ranging from Intro to Multicultural Literature in the U.S. to Hemispheric American Literature, and is very active with Latino/a/x student services.
Sarah Haley, Associate Professor at Columbia University, has research interests in the history of gender and women, carceral history, Black feminist history and theory, prison abolition, and feminist archival methods. She is the author of No Mercy Here: Gender, Punishment, and the Making of Jim Crow Modernity, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2016. No Mercy Here received awards from the Association of Black Women Historians, the American Historical Association, the American Studies Association, the National Women’s Studies Association, and the Southern Association for Women Historians and was selected for the National Book Foundation’s 2020-2021 Literature for Justice Reading List. Professor Haley co-edited a special issue of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society with Professors Prudence Cumberbatch and Dayo Gore. Her writing has been published in edited volumes as well as journals including Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, The Journal of African American History, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, and Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. She is currently working on a book titled The Carceral Interior: A Black Feminist Study of American Punishment, 1966-2016. Prior to arriving at Columbia, she worked as a paralegal and as an organizer with the hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE, and was the founding director of the Black Feminism Initiative at UCLA.
Alex Alston is a sixth year Ph.D. Candidate and Provost’s Diversity Fellow in the English and Comparative Literature department at Columbia University. His research takes a discursive-material approach in exploring chattel slavery and its afterlives, anti-colonial histories and theories of the Human, and folk aesthetics, privileging nineteenth & twentieth century Afro-American and Afro-diapsoric literature, especially the (neo)slave narrative and the novel. His dissertation, tentatively titled “Animal Ambivalence: Black Literature and the Discourse of Species,” was awarded the 2022-2023 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Therein, he tracks some of the ways that Afro-American and Afro-diasporic authors have deconstructed and represented the sign and the body of nonhuman animality from the slave narrative genre through the late twentieth century novel, using black ecofeminist methods to place the work of these creative intellectuals in conversation with contemporary black studies. Alex has taught courses on African-American history and literature at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, NY as well as the University of California, Riverside. He holds a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. from Columbia, each in black studies.
Cecilia Azar is a Ph.D. student in Performance Studies at Brown University. She has an MA in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies from Cal State Los Angeles and the University of Maryland College Park, respectively. Her research interest rest at the intersection of affect, displacement, and performances of survival in the Americas. Her work appears in the Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies, and Dark Tourism of the American West, a collection of essays edited by Jennifer Dawes.
Srimayee Basu is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. Her research areas include eighteenth- and nineteenth- century American Literature, Black Atlantic Studies, and Labor History. Her current book project, Punishment and Revolution, reads Anglophone Black Atlantic literature alongside penal history and the histories of slavery and abolition in the long nineteenth-century, and offers a new account of how extra-economic violence racialized New World labor.
Thomas Dichter is a contingent faculty member, clerical worker, and labor organizer at Harvard University, where he teaches in the History and Literature program. He holds a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania. His research on U.S. culture and the carceral state has been published in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, American Literature, and Law, Culture, and the Humanities. Prior to moving to Boston, he was a member of Decarcerate PA, a grassroots coalition working to end mass incarceration in Pennsylvania.
Christopher Paul Harris is an Assistant Professor in the department of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Irvine. His academic writing has appeared in the journals South Atlantic Quarterly, Contemporary Political Theory, and Social Science Quarterly. In the Fall of 2023, his first book, To Build a Black Future: Blackness and Social Movement in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter will be published by Princeton University Press.
remus jackson is a genderqueer cartoonist pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Florida with a research focus on queer/trans embodiment in comics and zines, critical prison studies, and museum studies. They received their M.A. in English from the University of Florida.
Cait N. Parker(she/her) is currently a fourth year PhD Candidate in American Studies at Purdue University. Cait is an instructor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and LGBTQ+ Studies at Purdue. She has an MA in English and a BA in History, and her research focuses on LGBTQ+ history and critical carceral studies. Cait’s dissertation explores revolutionary lesbian abolitionists organizing in the 1970s – 1990s.
LaVelle Ridley (she/her) is a queer black transsexual writer, scholar, and dreamer whose work meets at the intersection of transgender studies, black feminist theory, and life writing studies. Finishing her PhD in English & Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, Ridley is at work on her dissertation which articulates how life writing by black trans women functions as tools for political resistance and imaginative freedom-making for the gendered-racially-sexually oppressed. She has work published or forthcoming from GLQ, Feminist Studies, and TSQ, the latter for which she serves as Associate Book Review Editor.
Margarita Lila Rosa received her PhD from Princeton University from the Department of Comparative Literature with a graduate certificate from the Department African American Studies in 2021. Rosa’s research explores the legal and social history of hereditary slavery across the Spanish and Lusophone Americas through archival research in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Brazil. Her concurrent research explores the expansion of the carceral state in the late nineteenth century in California and Rio de Janeiro.
Matt Seybold is Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, as well as scholar-in-residence at the Center For Mark Twain Studies, editor of MarkTwainStudies.org, and host of The American Vandal Podcast. He also co-edited the Routledge Companion To Literature & Economics (2018) and a 2019 special issue of American Literary History on “Economics and American Literary Studies in the New Gilded Age.” Other recent work on Twain appears in American Literary Realism, Los Angeles Review of Books, Mark Twain Annual, and at MarkTwainStudies.org.
Kia Turner is pursuing a PhD in race, inequality, and language in education at Stanford Graduate School of Education. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature in 2016, and from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2017 as a member of the founding cohort for the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program. She is also pursuing her JD at Yale Law School. She hopes to use abolitionist theory to explore how the understanding and practice of community informs Black and Brown students’ experiences of punishment and justice in schools. Kia taught middle school English in Harlem for five years where she instituted a culturally relevant “Tools for Liberation” advisory curriculum. Kia received Teaching Tolerance’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the National Council of English Teacher’s Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award, and is a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.
Michelle Velasquez-Potts is an educator and writer working at the intersections of feminist and queer thought. At the present time, she is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Consciousness Department at UC Santa Cruz. Her first book project, Suspended Animation, focuses on the relationship between medicine and punishment, and in particular the rise of force-feeding post-9/11. She has published essays in Women and Performance, Public Culture, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Abolition Journal, and Art Journal Open.
Darion Wallace is pursuing a PhD in Race, Inequality, and Language in Education and Education Data Science at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and African American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in International Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University. As a transdisciplinary Black education scholar, Darion employs mixed methods to explore how the sociolegal conditions of schools have structured Black education and outcomes across time. Moreover, Darion aspires to investigate how the organizational features of primary and secondary schools serve as a socializing agent to shape and inform black students’ racial and political identities. Previously, he has worked as a research and policy associate at the Learning Policy Institute, where he supported the Educator Preparation Laboratory by centering equity, deeper learning, and the whole child framework. He lectures at San Francisco State University within the Africana Studies department. Darion is a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship.
Henry Washington, Jr. is an incoming Assistant Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University. He holds an MA in English and a PhD in Modern Thought and Literature, both from Stanford University. His first book project, tentatively titled “Enfleshing the Criminal: Producing and Policing Black (Sexual) Difference in the Criminological Imagination,” traces the cultural habits of seeing through which the black female body became legible as the paradigmatic arbiter of criminality’s pathological inheritance in the mid-19th century. It simultaneously considers the ways that Black fiction writers, investigative journalists, and visual artists from the period expressively experimented with (although not always departing from) the ostensibly objective terms on which racialized gender subsequently appeared in the logic of the law. His previous writing appears in Women & Performance.