Theoretical Meditations
on the Afterlives of Slavery

On January 19, 2021, the Working Group on Slavery and Visual Culture held a roundtable on the afterlies of slavery with Deborah A. Thomas (UPenn), Tavia Nyong’o (Yale), and Lorgia García Peña (Harvard). Moderated by Danielle Roper (UChicago), the discussion addressed the functions and meanings of the concept “afterlives of slavery” as a theoretical and temporal framework for critically engaging visual regimes of racialization in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries.

“If this is the end of the world as we know it, the death of western modernity and the rise of…something else, then let us be attuned to the new dispositions of racism, security, and control beyond the plantation.”
Deborah A. Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

“The way an antiblack world thinks (about us) may be the condition of our art, but it can never be its cause. Or maybe this is just to say that we have just cause: that when it comes to making art, we have our reasons. It’s not just silly games.”
— Tavia Nyong’o, Yale University

“Translating Blackness is thus also a political act that interrupts the presence of colonial structures that force so many of us to live in the afterlife of slavery and erases the possibility of our humanity from the streets to the archives.”
— Lorgia García Peña, Harvard University

Read more excerpts of the meditations here.