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Anthony Obst

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin


2019 –

PhD Candidate

Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

2016 – 2018

M.A. North American Studies

Thesis: “Drums of Haiti: Black Radical Literary Representations of the Haitian Revolution in the 1930s”

John-F.-Kennedy Institute, Freie Universität Berlin

2008 – 2011

B.A. American Studies / German Literature

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin



Honorable Mention: Willi-Paul-Adams-Preis


Rocco Clein Preis für Musikjournalismus

Between Hope and Despair: Black Radical Abolitionist Imaginaries in Retrospective Texts of the 1930s (dissertation project)

Dissertation in Culture

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Martin Lüthe
Third supervisor: Dr. Herman Bennett

In my dissertation, I examine how African American writers during the 1930s mobilized retrospective narratives to highlight the ongoing crisis of anti-Black racism and global capitalism’s investment in its persistence. Returning narratively – through historical fiction, drama, and historiography – to moments of abolition, revolution, or moments when the regime of enslavement was being contested, these retrospective texts celebrate historical challenges to white supremacist structures, while positing Black liberation as an unfinished, transnational project. Looking to the past, works like W. E. B. Du Bois’s study Black Reconstruction (1935), Theodore Ward’s play Big White Fog (1938), or Richard Wright’s novel Uncle Tom’s Children (1938) raise questions about the kinds of futures that are possible, thus articulating a spectrum of what I will call affective relations to temporality. Mapping out a typology of these relations, I suggest that an analysis of different kinds of hope and despair is crucial for an understanding of these texts, their philosophies of history, and the abolitionist imaginaries they project. My dissertation understands these abolitionist imaginaries as part of what the scholar and activist Dylan Rodríguez has termed the “long abolitionist project.” Conceiving of abolitionism as a multifarious critical apparatus within (as well as of) the Black radical tradition, my claim is not that this imaginary is unique to the 1930s. Instead, I want to highlight its prevalence during this particular decade, as it congeals around a number of different projects of racist-colonial carcerality: Jim Crow laws in the South, the Scottsboro trials, the U.S. military occupation of Haiti, and a grappling with – or a reassessment of – the legacies of enslavement. The writers I examine interrogate the systemic logics and methods of confinement, carcerality and enclosure, by writing critically about topics related to the police, to law, imprisonment, occupation, and general aporia.


“Take Care: Drake als Vorbote einer inklusiven Männlichkeit im Rap des Internetzeitalters.” Rap im 21. Jahrhundert: Eine (Sub-)Kultur im Wandel. Ed. Marc Dietrich. Transcript, 2016, pp. 55–80.

“Ceremony Found: Sylvia Wynter’s Hybrid Human and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony.” aspeers 12, 2019, pp. 77–96.

Conference Papers:

02/2017, Configurations of the Black Atlantic: Interdisciplinary Symposium at the JFKI, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Paper: "Black Atlantic Politics of Representation in the Music of Dean Blunt"

10/2019, Symposium “African American Worldmaking in the Long Nineteenth Century,” Universität Potsdam, Germany

Paper: "The Long Nineteenth Century and Long Emancipation: Black Radical Tragic Worldmaking in the Wake of the Haitian Revolution"

03/2020, European Social Science History Conference, Leiden University, Netherlands (Postponed)

Paper: "Radical Despair in the 1930s: Troubled Responses to America’s Unfinished 19th-Century Revolutions"

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft