Own Nothing: Rethinking Theft in Slavery's Archives

Friday Seminar
Ajay Batra, University of Southern California and 2019-2020 MCEAS Hamer Dissertation Fellow
Oct 7, 2022 at - | Zoom Only

Ajay Batra

Ajay [UH-jay] Kumar Batra is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California’s Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Batra is a literary and cultural historian working at the intersection of early American studies, Black studies, and slavery studies. His research illuminates the heterodox visions of liberation and of the good life that Atlantic African diasporans generated during early modernity and the Age of Revolutions. His current book project, Radiant Ephemera: Abolition in the Black Atlantic, examines how Black diasporans in the United States and the British Caribbean theorized abolition during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It illustrates that Black poets, preachers, rebels, and maroons, among others, embraced abolition not as the event of slavery’s legal annulment, but rather as the interminable practice of building a new, more livable world from the ground up. He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. 



The McNeil Center sponsors a seminar that meets on Friday afternoons approximately twice a month between September and May, with the paper for each session circulated in advance. Over two hundred people attend at least once a year, with an average attendance of 40 to 50 at meetings held at various sites in the Delaware Valley. While most of the regular attendees are graduate students and faculty from institutions in the Philadelphia area, participants come from as far afield as Long Island, New York City, Princeton, Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington. 

The McNeil Center will utilize a hybrid format for seminars in which participants may gather together at the McNeil Center building (or occasionally at an MCEAS Consortium institution host in the Philadelphia area) or attend via Zoom. To get access to the seminar papers and Zoom links, or to join our mailing list, please email us at mceas@sas.upenn.edu.