Past Event

Reparations for Slavery: Memory, Justice, Responsibility

February 3, 2022
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
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In the past few years, the issue of slavery reparations has been at the center of many public debates, both in the United States and in Europe. Some debates, like the one between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Coleman Hughes three years ago, have been widely publicized and contributed to creating a greater awareness of this question among the general public. But what do we really mean when we talk about “reparations”? How are we to understand, in this context, the terms of “justice”, “dignity”, “abolitions”, “indemnity”, “memory”, “rights”, “race”, “responsibility”? In their book Lexique des réparations de l’esclavage (Lexicon of Reparations for Slavery), Magali Bessone and Myriam Cottias shed new light on these notions through concrete examples and case studies from the present and the past. By doing so, they highlight the importance of the question of reparations within contemporary philosophical, historical and economic discussions about race and power. 

Magali Bessone is a Professor of political philosophy at Panthéon-Sorbonne University, member of the ISJPS (Institut des Sciences Juridique et Philosophique de la Sorbonne, UMR 8103) and associate researcher at CIRESC (Centre international de recherche sur les esclavages et post-esclavages). She is also member of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation for the Remembrance of Slavery. Her research focuses on theories of justice and critical theories of race and racism. She is the author of Sans distinction de race ? (Vrin, 2013), Faire justice de l'irréparable (Vrin, 2019), the co-editor, with Gideon Calder and Federico Zuolo, of How Groups Matter ? Challenges of Toleration in Pluralistic Societies (Routledge, 2014) and the co-editor, with Daniel Sabbagh, of Race, racisme, discriminations : une anthologie de textes fondamentaux (Hermann, 2015). The Lexique des réparations de l'esclavage, co-edited with Myriam Cottias (Karthala 2021), and W.E.B Du Bois, Double conscience et condition raciale, co-written with Matthieu Renault (Editions Amsterdam, 2021), are her most recent publications.

Myriam Cottias is director of the International Center for Research on Slavery & Post-Slavery (CIRESC). She was coordinator of the EURESCL program within the framework of the 7th PCRD of the European Commission (, appointed member of the National Committee of the CNRS (2014-2016) and President of the National Committee on the memory and history of slavery (2013-2016). She is director of the “Esclavages” “Esclavages Documents” collections at Karthala. She is the director of publication and co-editor in chief of the journal Esclavages & post ~ slavages / Slaveries & Post ~ Slaveries.

Madeleine Dobie is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia.

Nicolas Delalande is Associate Professor at the Centre for History at Sciences Po and Visiting Professor at Columbia.

Olatunde C. Johnson is Jerome B. Sherman Professor of Law at Columbia.

This program is jointly presented by the Columbia Maison Française, the Columbia French Department and the Alliance Program. 

This event will also be livestreamed on Facebook Live