Abolition is most narrowly defined as the end of slavery. But in African American studies, abolition is a keyword that raises a complex set of questions about when, and whether, slavery actually ended. As a concept, then, abolition raises critical questions about black temporality—­what shifts in relations of power constitute freedom’s beginning and captivity’s end? Scholars within African American studies have considered the complexity of abolition as a process; while recognizing the dramatic transformations that emancipation wrought, theorists have challenged its interpretation as grand event, questioned its completeness, and demanded abolition’s continued salience for challenging regimes of antiblack captivity. For black studies, abolition means far more than an end but rather a struggle over the terms of the future. From the perspective of the enslaved, abolition meant, at least in part, the reconstitution of relations of property. Abolition is tethered to political and social arrangements outside of regimes of racial and gendered violence and normativity that were inaugurated under slavery. As a site of black studies analysis, abolition offers a rejoinder to linear and triumphant narratives about the history of slavery.

This essay may be found on page 9 of the printed volume.

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