Grounding Practice – Abolition: In Defense of Translation

September 9, 2021

Original Source:

A series of guest presentations and a panel discussion exploring the concept of abolition.

Join programme curators Lola Olufemi and Imani Robinson for an online screening of filmed contributions from abolitionists Zoe Samudzi, Jun Pang, and SA Smythe as they speak to the concept’s utility within their respective contexts. The series of presentations will be followed by a panel discussion.

Part of Abolition: In Defence of Translation, a series of presentations, organising workshops, conversations and performances reflecting on the many dimensions of abolition, curated and programmed by Lola Olufemi and Imani Robinson.


In defence of translation. When a word or concept travels, its meaning and applicability begin to shapeshift. We have seen how abolitionist practices and processes morph depending on geographic location: how the concept has been adapted to the shape of carcerality across the world.

We have also seen how abolitionist demands have been defanged, twisted and misread. Against the desire to own and impose static meaning, we work in defence of translation. In defence of the idea that concepts are not geographically bound, that they can and should float, bend and be utilised by organisers, art practitioners across the world.

Abolition is a wandering concept: it is solid enough to survive transit. It does not flow in one direction, namely from the west outward, rather it operates multi-directionally, creating new dimensions for exchange. We stand in defence of translation because we eschew the border.


Dr. SA Smythe (they / them) is a poet, translator, and assistant professor of Black European Cultural Studies, Contemporary Mediterranean Studies, and Black Trans Poetics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where they research relational aspects of Black belonging beyond borders. They are the editor of Troubling the Grounds: Global Configurations of Blackness, Nativism, and Indigeneity special issue for Postmodern Culture, and the forthcoming book, Where Blackness Meets the Sea: On Crisis, Culture, and the Black Mediterranean. Also forthcoming is a full volume of poetry titled proclivity, which takes up a familial history of Black migration, trans embodiment, and Black liberation. Smythe organizes with students and other comrades in the broader Cops Off Campus Coalition and other abolitionist/anti-carceral groups across Turtle Island and in Europe. Winner of the 2022 Rome Prize, Smythe is currently based between Rome and Tongva Land (Los Angeles).


Jun Pang is a writer, researcher, and organiser, focusing on migrants’ rights, policing, and building solidarity across transnational contexts.


Dr. Zoé Samudzi is a writer whose work has appeared in The New Inquiry, Verso, The New Republic, Daily Beast, Art in America, Hyperallergic, ROAR Magazine, Teen Vogue, Arts. Black, and other outlets. Her research analyzes German colonization, colonial biomedicine, and the genocide against Herero and Nama and San peoples in Namibia (1904-08) and its scientific afterlife. Along with William C. Anderson, she is the co-author of As Black as Resistance: Finding the Conditions for Our Liberation (AK Press). She is currently a research fellow with Political Research Associates.

Part of Grounding Practice, a rolling programme of workshops, presentations, conversations, and peer-to-peer meetups, as a resource shaped by and for creative practitioners and critical thinkers.

December 2, 2022