Starting in Britain, the question of the abolition of slavery became one of the most debated moral issues in Europe in the long 19th century. The category "doing justice" can be used to analyse concepts of law and justice for the institution of slavery and its abolition in relation to the transnational anti-slavery movement.
Transnational Anti-Slavery-Movements and Doing Justice in the Long 19th Century
The networks campaigning for abolition were heterogeneous and ranged from religious groups to former slaves, from the emerging women's or labour movement to other groups of people or individuals, such as lawyers or merchants. At the upcoming conference we do not want to remain on the discursive level but want to focus on the practices that the different actors employed as a result of their sense of justice.
The different meanings of anti-slavery and justice will be presented, but also problematised in their historical context: How did the various actors of abolitionism – which can include movements but should not be reduced to them exclusively – develop their understanding of law and justice and how did they apply it to the question of slavery? In which practices did these conceptions materialise and to what extent did ruptures, but also unifying moments, emerge in the context of race, class and gender? To what extent did (transnational) transfers of ideas between abolitionism and other fields of discourse gain relevance for the conceptions of law and justice? How can the influence on the anti-slavery movement be assessed when individual actors or groups of actors became involved not only as abolitionists but also in other fields of virulent social negotiation processes such as the questions of women's suffrage, workers' rights, abstinence etc.?
In order to approach the contemporary understanding of the complexities of slavery, we will also have to ask which legal and natural law definitions of "slave" existed, how they differed and what semantic meaning they carried. What was the relationship between moral and economic lines of argumentation? In addition, the question of the aftermath of slavery arises: What role did abolitionism play in the construction of identity and memory of individual actors and groups? To what extent should historical master narratives be critically questioned in the sense of a history of human rights as a history of progress? What role does the above outline play in the current debates on restitution?
From 16 November 2022 to 18 November 2022, the Institute for Social Movements of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (represented by Stefan Berger) in cooperation with the Chair of Modern European History of the FernUniversität in Hagen (represented by Alexandra Przyrembel) will organise the final conference of the project "Between Economy and Morality: The Anti-Slavery Movements as a Transnational Network in the 'Long 19th Century'" and will attempt to approach these questions. The project is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. The conference is aimed at both established researchers and young scholars.