Ajay Batra, University of Pennsylvania
Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellow
“The Making of Abolition in the Archives of Atlantic Slavery, 1785–1865”
I am a doctoral candidate in the department of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where I study the connected histories of chattel slavery, emancipation, and abolition in the late-18th- and 19th-century United States and British West Indies. My dissertation examines literary and archival texts from this period in order to elaborate the heterodox visions of freedom and abolition that enslaved and formerly enslaved people generated in their writings and in their everyday lives. Through careful attention to how these texts disclose traces of ways of being that are unbound by the liberal conception of freedom as self-possession, I recast abolition as the experimental province of those who were enslaved, showing that they did not merely await or demand slavery’s formal end, but rather took into their own hands the challenge of eradicating its enabling conditions by sustaining worlds apart from them.
Complementary areas of study include Africana religious history, the history of race and caste, colonialism and postcolonialism, and prison abolition.