Slavery, Freedom, Sovereignty

June 27-30, 2017
10.00-12.00 am

Toni Morrison’s observation that she once sought sovereignty in fiction-writing does not indicate a retreat from politics. Far from it. Instead, Morrison imaginatively expands our conception of the conditions under which enslaved and colonized subjects and their descendants have enacted new forms of freedom around the globe and throughout the modern era. The core text for this seminar will be Morrison’s 1987 novel, Beloved, which meditates on the lives and afterlives of US slavery. Alongside the novel, each session will also explore short theoretical texts from across the African diaspora that address the following themes: Constituting Freedom Beyond Slavery, Fugitive Liberties, En-gendering Sovereignty, and Visions of  Black Reparations. Sessions will include both lecture and discussion components. 

Lawrie Balfour is Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, where she teaches courses in political theory and African American studies. She is the author of Democracy’s Reconstruction: Thinking Politically with W.E.B. Du Bois (Oxford University Press) and The Evidence of Things Not Said: James Baldwin and the Promise of American Democracy (Cornell University Press), as well as numerous articles and chapters on race and democracy. Currently, she is working on a book on reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. The recipient of multiple teaching awards, Balfour was the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Associate Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values in 2008-09; and she served as a visiting faculty member at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris in May 2012. Balfour received her Ph.D. and A.B. degrees from Princeton University and an M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School.