Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies


13 December 2022
16:00 - 18:00
Drift 21 Room 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Public Lecture by Katarina Schwarz: “Historical” Injustice, Contemporary Redress: The Case for Reparations for Transatlantic Enslavement

The movement for reparations for transatlantic enslavement ties past, present, and future together in a call for recognition, reckoning, and reformation. Reparations detractors call for activists to ‘move on’ from the injustices of the past. Yet, the history, memory, and legacies of transatlantic enslavement remain live issues, increasingly at the centre of public debates. Although many assertions about the law pervade these debates, the underpinning legal foundations of these claims are often shaky. What the law was, what the law is, how these legal conditions came about, and their implications for redress remain open questions.

In this talk, Schwarz will present key concepts and arguments from her recent book, Reparations for Slavery in International Law: Transatlantic Enslavement, the Maangamizi, and the Making of International Law  (OUP 2022). Recognizing the centrality of law in reparations discourse, Schwarz will re-examine the history of slavery and international law in critical perspective. She draws attention to the absence of reckoning with the Maangamizi—the African holocaust—tracking across the shifting sands of enslavement and colonialism to abolition, decolonization, and neo-colonialism. In reconceptualising this history, new possibilities for responding to the legacies of these ‘historical’ injustices emerge, based on a foundation of reparatory justice.

Dr. Katarina Schwarz is an Associate Professor in Antislavery Law and Policy in the School of Law and Associate Director of the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham. Her research explores the intersections between slavery and the law, from the historical to the contemporary, at international, regional, and domestic levels. Her research also interrogates the legal case for reparations for “historical” injustices, with a focus on the system of transatlantic chattel enslavement, reconsidering colonial legacies within international law in critical perspective. In her role leading the Rights Lab’s Law and Policy Programme, Schwarz works at the interface of research and policy to deliver evidence-based guidance for antislavery action.

This lecture is jointly organized by ReAct and the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies.