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02.02.2020 12:22 Alter: 125 days

'Blood on the Leaves / And Blood at the Roots'

Call for Papers

Theme: 'Blood on the Leaves / And Blood at the Roots'
Subtitle: Reconsidering Forms of Enslavement and Subjection across Disciplines
Type: Interdisciplinary Conference
Institution: University of Warwick
Location: Coventry (United Kingdom)
Date: 19.–20.6.2020
Deadline: 20.4.2020

18th June 2020:
Pre-conference panel on getting published & networking event for
postgraduate students and early career researchers and practitioners

19th-20th June 2020:
Conference at the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Funded by the University of Warwick Centre for Philosophy, Literature
and the Arts (CRPLA), The Humanities Research Centre (HRC), the
Environmental Humanities Network (EHN), the Yesu Persaud Centre for
Caribbean Studies (YPCCS), the Department of English and Comparative
Studies, the Department of Philosophy, the British Comparative
Literature Association (BCLA) and The Royal Historical Society (RHS).

This event aims to open a multicultural space beyond institutional
and geographical boundaries to foster discussions and to listen to a
variety of voices, addressing the problems of enslavement and
subjection. In this space, this conference seeks to explore the
various figurations and conceptions of enslavement and subjection
across disciplines—from philosophy to literature, from the arts to
the social sciences, to mention only a few— and beyond territories.
Enslavement and subjugation are not only concerns of our past but
urgent problems of our present and future. The title of the
conference directly refers to Billie Holiday’s 1939 performance of
Strange Fruit so as to emphasise both the human and environmental
impact of forms of enslavement and subjection which have—literally
and metaphorically—left “Blood on the leaves / And blood at the

This exploration, as we intend it, takes the form of a
reconsideration because we believe that enslavement and subjection
need to be continuously ‘considered again’ and ‘rethought’ to extend
and problematise understandings and approaches to these key themes.
Each time we return to these issues, we fix in our mind something
that we ought not to forget and we learn something new that we ought
not to neglect. In this conference, we would like to reconsider and
return on the multiple facets of the problems of enslavement and its
evolution in modern forms of subjections, taking with us and keeping
in mind the following words:

“[E]ven as we experienced, recognized, and lived subjection, we did
not simply or only live in subjection and as the subjected.” (2016:4)

In this quote, describing her family’s struggle as Black Americans in
the 1950s US, Christina Sharpe’s words and italics highlight an
insidious pitfall in methodological approaches to the study of
slavery and its legacies in a number of academic disciplines. These
approaches are often conducive to a consideration of subjected
individuals and communities “simply or only” as ‘enslaved’ people.
These subjected agents become objects of study only as ‘slaves’
rather than subjects endowed with their own agency, thinking and
feelings, and this tendency continues in post-slavery and race
studies. Hence, the very attempt to study and understand
(post-)slavery and subjection poses the risk of falling back into
another type of objectification and dehumanisation of ‘subjected
subjects.’ As for example, Saidiya Hartman notes in relation to
archival studies that “[t]he archive dictates what can be said about
the past and the kinds of stories that can be told about the persons
cataloged, embalmed, and sealed away in box files and folios. To read
the archive is to enter a mortuary; it permits one final viewing and
allows for a last glimpse of persons about to disappear into the
slave hold.” (2007:17)

In light of these words and cognizant of this danger, the conference
would like to propose a reconsideration of enslavement and subjection
that aims to de-objectify and do justice to the humanity of what we
have called the ‘subjected subjects,’ of the subjects of uneven
(hi)stories of a brutally imposed condition, that is not just part of
our past, but also continues to have disastrous impacts on our
society and environment. Thus, we also aim to further consider the
ecological dimension of enslavement and subjugation as tightly knit
with the human one, promoting a de-reification of ‘nature’ and the
‘natural.’ Thereby our purpose is to illuminate systematic and
structural issues of our current climates.

The best way to carry out this reconsideration, in our view, is to
create a space to listen and to discuss, bringing together diverse
contributions across disciplines and institutions, within and without
academia. We are convinced that only an inter-and-trans-disciplinary
enterprise, which encourages human and intellectual diversity,
enables a reconsideration of the problems of enslavement and
subjection, as well as of the ways in which we approach these topics.
For this reason, we welcome papers both from different fields of
study and that tackle the issue of enslavement and subjection at the
intersection of different disciplines. This space is not only open to
scholars from all over the world, but also to activists and artists
who wish to discuss their political engagement with and artistic
approaches to the themes. We welcome other presentation formats such
as roundtables, discussion, jam sessions.

We invite abstracts on topics including, but not limited to:

- Forms of enslavement across time from Antiquity to today.
- Figuration and representation of enslaved people and/or slavery and
 more broadly subjugation in the arts (music, visual and performing
 arts, film, tv and media studies, theatre and drama, literature and
 graphic novels, etc.)
- (Hi)Stories of slavery and oppression as well as resistance,
 emancipation and liberation and memory studies.
- Philosophers’ views on slavery as well as the philosophical
 significance of the concept of enslavement and subjugation in the
 history and practice of philosophy.
- Philosophical accounts of servitude as a condition.
- (Political) Ethics of enslavement and/or subjection.
- Traces of slavery and enslavement in our time, structural racism,
 #BlackLivesMatter, minority activism movements and social
- Gendered and reproductive enslavement and labour, housewifization
 and women’s emancipation movements and activism, #NiUnaMenos &
- The role of colonisation and slavery in building Europe and the
 United States and its economy as well as debates surrounding
 restitution and reparation.
- Decolonising the University and the syllabus, and decolonial
 methodologies more broadly.
- The evolution of slavery, indentured labour and forced migration.
- Modern slavery and human and animal trafficking.
- Contemporary economies of tourism and/or neo-liberal practices of
 extractivism as forms of enslavement and subjugation.
- Commodification of bodies and lands and their intertwined relations.
- Traces of slavery on the environment, plantationocene, climate
 change, uneven developments and environmental justice.
- Human-Animal relations, animal ethics and their exploitation and
- Extinction as a result of exploitation and subjugation.

We invite individual proposals for 20-minute papers, as well as
proposals for panels (three 20-minute papers), for roundtables, jam
sessions, or any other format to present artistic production or to
address activism, etc. Please send an abstract (200-300 words) and a
brief biography, by 20th April 2020, to:

We strongly encourage submissions going beyond Western scholarship
and from scholars at any stage of their careers.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Professor Kaiama L. Glover (Columbia University)
Professor Robert Bernasconi (Penn State University)
Dr. Monique Allewaert (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Dr. Meleisa Ono-George (University of Warwick)

Conference website: