May 10, 2023
In this episode we interview Dr. Kris Manjapra.
Kris Manjapra works at the intersection of transnational history and the critical study of race and colonialism. He is the author of five books, in this episode we discuss his comparative study of global emancipation processes and the implications for reparations movement today: Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation.
In addition to his scholarly work, he is the founder of a site-based nonprofit, Black History in Action, dedicated to the restoration and reactivation of a Black cultural heritage center in Cambridge, MA. Kris also co-organizes a free online community certificate course, entitled Black Futures Matter, serving people’s assemblies across the US and the Caribbean.
Our conversation with Manjapra focuses on Black Ghosts of Empire and on unsettling our mystified and highly inaccurate dominant views of emancipation processes globally. Dr. Manjapra walks us through the origin and history of the legal apparatus of emancipation and takes a materialist approach to analyzing whose interests were served through these processes to demonstrate how these historical shifts preserved and upheld the interests of slave owners. He also demonstrates the various ways that emancipation processes were designed to place Black people into a state of indebtedness and delay their freedom from bondage. This is an excellent discussion for thinking through the ways that the white supremacist capitalist state and the property owning classes seek to respond to crises in ways that preserve existing hierarchies and power relations.
We also discuss many of the vibrant Black abolitionist movements that demanded, organized, and struggled for alternative futures. Taking a look at some of the earliest Pan Africanist and Black Feminist thinkers, cultural workers, and organizers Manjapra stitches together a rich tapestry of movement lineage that carries into the current ongoing struggles for reparations for slavery and its long afterlives.
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Links to some companion conversations:
Rinaldo Walcott - On Black Freedom and the Abolition of Property
Saidiya Hartman - Scenes of Subjection at 25
Robin DG Kelley - Freedom Dreams at 20