From Abolition to Black Lives Matter: Past and Present Forms of Transnational Black Resistance

October 26-28, 2017, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany.

Conference organizers: Nele Sawallisch, Johanna Seibert, Pia Wiegmink, Frank Obenland

This conference hosted by the Transnational American Studies Institute aims at assessing and theorizing past and present forms of black intellectual, political, and cultural resistance from the era of abolitionist campaigns against the transatlantic slave trade to the recent global protest formation of Black Lives Matter.

Protests against racial discrimination, inequality, poverty, and injustice not only pervade (North) American history but span the globe and cross – oftentimes multiple – borders. Building on the recent transnational turn in American Studies and de-centering American Studies’ focus on the nation as the prime focus of analysis, this workshop invites papers that trace the Atlantic routes/roots (Gilroy), the diasporic and global trajectories, as well as the movement, circulation, and dissemination of past and present forms and ideas of black resistance. The conference aims at discussing the transnational dimension of various forms of resistance that are often embedded in larger social movements such as the anti-slavery, the anti-lynching, the Civil Rights, Black Power, Anti-Apartheid, the Global Justice, the Prison Abolition, or the Black Lives Matter movements. Investigating the transatlantic significance of these movements, this conference will also address how collective or individual acts of resistance are articulated and represented in print, performance, visual art, or other media.

This conference will address questions such as:

  • How do we conceptualize the connections between past and present forms of transnational black resistance? How does this relationship between the past and the present shape existing notions of resistance?
  • How did national movements for black equality and justice impact as well as intersect with national and international forms of protest?
  • How do forms of black resistance initiate ways to re-think forms of protest and activism outside the United States?
  • What role have different media played in and for black resistance movements throughout the centuries not only in national but also international contexts? How have the digital world and global social media changed previous forms of transnational black resistance?
  • What could be possible trajectories of movements such as Black Lives Matter in the face of the 2016 Presidential election in the United States?
  • How do protest movements intersect with scholarly and intellectual pursuits in academia? How can scholars and activists collaborate in articulating critical interventions in ongoing political discussions?

Confirmed keynote speakers:

  • Dorothy Randall Tsuruta (Chair of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, USA): 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st Century Forms of Black Activism: From Swamp to #Hashtag
  • Charmaine Nelson (Professor of Art History, Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Harvard University, USA): “he…had meditated an attempt to get on board a ship…bound to Newfoundland”: The Limits of the Term Refugee for Enslaved Africans in Canadian Fugitive Slave Advertisements
  • Vincent Carretta (Center for Literary and Comparative Studies, University of Maryland, USA): Strangers in Strange Lands: Letter Writers in the Early Black Atlantic

In cooperation with:





There is no registration fee. If you want to participate in the conference, please register with Nele Sawallisch: