Speculative Project: Reparative Worldmaking in the Abolitionist University


What is this Project About?

This project, developed as part of the Spring 2022 “Redesigning the Academy” course by Shannon Mattern at The New School, is in a way the focal point I have been waiting to emerge, converge for years. It is a project where different rays of light, previously traveling alone through the darkness that is our world, meet: 

  • My efforts to constructively engage with my frustrations about the academy and anthropology in general, and my personal experiences in/with it in particular.
  • The PhD project I am developing around Black liberation movements in the Afro-Dutch diaspora.
  • My personal convictions and politics of anticolonialism and abolitionism, and the hopes for a different world. 

It is the start of my answer, approached through the limited scope of higher education, to the impossible question: What could a different world look like? And just as important: How do we get there?

Taking as my central question “How can reparative worldmaking happen through the abolitionist academy?” this project aims to do three things, building on the extensive efforts and labor others have dedicated to similar works, and playing with scale both in terms of space (individual–local–planetary) and time (short, medium, and long term): 

  1. Articulate what it means to think, speculate, and work towards different worlds, as well as possible steps we could take towards this, by looking at abolition as a “constructive project.” [1] 
  2. Formulate how these worldmaking projects can come into being, operate in, be developed through an abolitionist anthropology and university.
  3. Make it easier to find, and build networks with, like minded folks – at least, that is my hope.

Starting Point: Slavery and Colonialism Never Truly Ended

Following Saidiya Hartman,[2] Christina Sharpe,[3] and other Black and Indigenous scholars, we are living in the afterlives of slavery and colonialism. This means that the way that society was structured back then – plantations, racial systems of classification, Indigenous genocide, among others – continue to have effects on the way that our current world today works.

Honoring Those I’m Building On

This work would not have been able without my Black feminist heroes, including Audre Lorde, bell hooks, the Combahee River Collective, Angela Davis, and their collaborators outside of the United States. I am also indebted by those who have done the work to analyze our universities today – including the Abolitionist University Studies collective – and all those I list in my footnotes. Your work is what has brought me to this point, and I will always commit to honoring it the best way I can. Thank you, seriously.

What Does this Project Consist of?

This project, right now, lives in two modes, with one additional aspirational form to be developed in the future.

  1. Theoretical, practical, and imaginative explorations on my themes of worldmaking and the academy, based on literature review, on this page and the linked abolitionist university, and reparative worldmaking pages.
  2. A self-designed speculative syllabus for a potential course that could be taken in an abolitionist university: Reparative Worldmaking I.
  3. I hope to start building a network, forming a community, with those who would appreciate this project, and have their own aspirations for a radically reimagined world and academia.

My suggestion is to start with The Abolitionist University, then move to Reparative Worldmaking, ending with the Speculative Syllabus; if you want to follow this, just click the buttons on the bottom of the pages. Or go your own way, I won’t judge.


[1] Harney and Moten

[2] Hartman, Saidiya V. 2007. Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[3] Sharpe, Christina Elizabeth. 2016. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham: Duke University Press.