Center for Law History and Culture Workshop—Ajay Batra (USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow): “Exodus in Place: Abolition Geographies in Denmark’s Charleston”

We are so very pleased to present our first hybrid event of the academic year—indeed, our first in-person event since the pandemic began—on Wednesday, October 20: we have the pleasure of reading work by Ajay Batra, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Ajay will present a paper entitled “Exodus in Place: Abolition Geographies in Denmark’s Charleston,” a chapter of his book manuscript entitled Radiant Ephemera: Abolition in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery. Ajay’s work spans the fields of literature and law, as well as North America and the Caribbean. He offers an important critique of abolitionist narratives, encouraging us to think of them not only as centering not only on White humanitarians, but also as part of imagined in the alternative visions of existence devised by enslaved Africans.

Please note that this will be a hybrid event. For those who wish to join via Zoom, the link is included below. For those who wish to join in person, the event will take place in the Law Faculty Lounge (Room 433) from 12-1 pm. Please note that all attendees must be vaccinated, or provide evidence of a negative Covid test taken within the last 72 hours. For members of the USC community (students, faculty, and staff), your completed Trojan Check for that day is sufficient. For attendees who are not affiliated with USC, please be prepared to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test taken within the last 72 hours.

Unfortunately, the current restrictions prevent us from offering food during this event. However, we are able to provide a boxed lunch to anyone who would like to stay afterward, to be eaten on the patio outside the Faculty Lounge.

Please RSVP to Erin Johnson (ejohnson@law.usc.eduby Monday, October 18 if you would like to order a boxed lunch.

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 922 8152 4465
Passcode: 884665

Ajay Batra is a literary and cultural historian working at the intersection of early American studies, Black studies, and slavery studies. His research illuminates the heterodox visions of liberation and of the good life that Atlantic African diasporans generated during early modernity and the Age of Revolutions. His current book project, Radiant Ephemera: Abolition in the Black Atlantic, examines how Black diasporans in the United States and the British Caribbean theorized abolition during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It illustrates that Black poets, preachers, rebels, and maroons, among others, embraced abolition not as the event of slavery’s legal annulment, but rather as the interminable practice of building a new, more livable world from the ground up.

His other areas of study include political philosophy, racial capitalism, Marx, global histories of race and caste, PIC abolition, and theories of the archive. His article on the latter topic, “Reading with Conviction: Abraham Johnstone and the Poetics of the Dead End,” appeared in Early American Literature and, in 2020, received the American Literature Society’s 1921 Prize for best essay in the field of American literary studies. In 2019–20, he was a dissertation fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.A. in English (with a minor in philosophy) from the University of Chicago. 


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