[Call for papers] Captives, recruited, migrants: Empires and labor mobilization, 17th century to present days.

Captives, recruited, migrants: Empires and labor mobilization, 17th century to present days.

Paris, sept 30-oct. 02, 2015

This workshop starts from the hypothesis that warfare and labor are strongly connected in Empire building and their evolution, to begin with war captives in early modern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas and to continue with the various forms of recruitment in land and maritime empires in all those areas. Captives as well as local peasants were soldiers, seamen, and colonists at the same time.

Vice versa, like soldiers and seamen, since the seventeenth century, immigrants were under strong coercive, military-inspired rules and the word deserter and fugitive was applied to all this wide range of conditions. Soldiers and ordinary population took part to collective work leaded by the village, the state, private companies, landlords, together with recruited and soldiers.

Forms of forced recruitment were still important in the 19th century (the press system in Britain and its variations in the Empire, recruitments in Russia) and continued in the 20th century, in Europe during the wars, outside of Europe during and after colonization and decolonization up through nowadays children soldiers.

Again, the connection between forced recruitment and forced migration is important, but it supposedly takes a new departure in the twentieth century with massive displacement of populations in the Soviet Empire as well as in several Asian and African areas. The boundary between refugees-workers-recruited still is fragile.

Participants are not required to pay a fee, but they are supposed to have funds for their own trip and staying, in particular confirmed scholars. Special allocations are provided for some PHD students and post-docs.

Proposals made of a short cv and one page abstract have to be sent to: tralibre-traforce@ehess.fr before may the 10th, 2015.

Answers by May the 20th.

The coordinator Alessandro Stanziani

[Call for papers] Language, Land and Labour. 10th Madagascar Workshop

Language, Land and Labour / 10th Madagascar Workshop

21 May 2015 / Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC), McGill University

Call for Papers

The Indian Ocean World Centre (IOWC), McGill will be hosting the 10th Madagascar Workshop on 21 May 2015 on the theme “Language, Land and Labour.” This interdisciplinary workshop brings together anthropologists, historians and other scholars who share an interest in Madagascar and its diaspora. The keynote speech will coincide with the opening presentation, on Madagascar, of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association Conference (AFLA) which runs from 21-24 May 2015.

Among the themes that might be considered are (but not excluded to):

  • Language, power and ideology in (pre-)colonial Madagascar
  • Discourses of land tenure, land degradation and forest use
  • Language of Slavery
  • Language of Religion / Spirit possession
  • Language and identity (gender/ age / ethnicity… )
  • Language and Colonialism
  • Language of Fady / Taboo in Labour and Land relations
  • Non-Austronesian influences on language in Madagascar
  • Labour regimes and land
  • Health, medicine and forest use
  • Power relations and language / land / labour

Those interested in participating should send a title and one-page abstract to the IOWC (iowc@mcgill.ca ) by 1 March 2015.

[Call for papers] Desertion and Mobility in Global Labor History, c. 1650-1850

Call for Papers:

Runaways: Desertion and Mobility in Global Labor History, c. 1650-1850

22-23 October 2015,

Amsterdam, International Institute of Social History Department of History, University of Pittsburgh

Early modern globalization depended on the mobility and work of millions of workers who were crucial to production, transport, protection, and warfare. Bound by contract, slavery or otherwise, most of the labour relations through which sailors, soldiers, craftsmen, convicts and slaves were mobilized and employed contained elements in which withdrawal from the labour relation was a punishable offence. Though the lives of the working people were ordained by powerful trading companies and state structures, these workers often tried to pursue their own social and economic interests. Walking away from work, often breaching contract or law, was a widespread phenomenon that had a crucial role in this early stage of globalization. ‘Desertion’ – as understood by authorities – was absence from work: a breach of a labor contract or an act of defiance. For this conference, we define desertion broadly (and is thus not limited to the military sphere) as ‘walking away from work where this was a punishable offence in labour relations underpinned by contracts, obligations or coercion’. It will compare different types of workers. The conference will also explicitly engage with perspectives ‘from below’. Walking away from work was perhaps the most common of all forms of quotidian acts of disobedience amongst the early modern workforce. The study of desertion provides information on the workers’ perception of economic opportunity, conditions of work, strategies of revolt and finally, how these practices among workers shaped the (much larger) history of empire and capitalism in the early modern period.

Desertion of workers thus provides an interesting perspective on early global connections. The mobility and boldness of deserting workers is not surprising. Throughout the world, a vast majority of them were often migrants. From this perspective, desertion can be related to the work place, labour conditions and workers strategies, but also to the opportunities offered by economic and political environments, varying from ‘open’ and ‘empty’ landscapes offering opportunities for settlement and freedom, to ‘urban’ and economically developed areas providing opportunities for (new) work, but also anonymity and shelter. This conference aims to investigate the phenomenon of desertion from a comparative and global (labour) history perspective. In an earlier meeting, some first lines of the history of desertion in the Dutch empire have been explored, comparing cases from Europe, the Atlantic and Asian realms.

This conference aims to broaden the perspective. Therefore, we invite (comparative) case-studies from different regions over the world in order test findings and to uncover new connections. We invite studies related to workers and communities from European and non-European histories. Examples of such cases could relate to:

– Desertion in the British, French, Spanish, Portuguese and other empires
– Desertion in European, Asian or other armies
– Desertion from labour contracts in Europe, Asia and the America’s by contracted wage workers such as sailors, soldiers, maids, crafts men or others
– Escape from coerced labour services, such servants (Europe), herendiensten (Java) or oeliam services (Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka)
– Escape by convicts from work camps and prisons
– Escape by slaves from slave ships, plantations, households in the Atlantic and Asian world
– Escape by slaves, servants, sailors, and other workers in (West-)Africa
– Histories of maroon communities
– Individual desertions or mass desertions

The conference aims to bring together excellent and innovative scholars working on the history of labour and social history, but will also be open to economic and cultural historians who can provide interesting case studies and perspectives. Covering European, Atlantic and Asian environments, it encourages case studies that focus on one or multiple groups of workers engaged in the global economy. In doing so, this conference will trace and compare acts and patterns of desertion across empires, economic systems, regions and types of workers. In order to study desertion comparatively way, we encourage participants to focus on the common research theme. The aim of the conference is to investigate the patterns of desertion and mobility as both economic and political responses to the processes at play in the early modern worlds of work and globalization.

In order to engage with these patterns of desertion systematically, participants are invited to consider the impact of variables such as the labour relations involved; the definitions of ‘desertion’ for different types of work and workers by authorities, employers and workers; the quantitative evidence for the incidence of desertion (and where possible, to reconstruct ‘desertion rates’); general patterns of work and mobility; mechanisms of control; the economic and political interests at stake for authorities, employers and workers.

Abstracts of maximum 500 words, indicating the proposed topic, sources and research methods, can be sent to desertion2015@gmail.com before 15 April 2015.

Titas Chakraborty, University of Pittsburgh
Jeannette Kamp, Leiden University
Marcel van der Linden, International Institute of Social History
Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh
Matthias van Rossum, International Institute of Social History

One Hundred Years of Servitude

One Hundred Years of Servitude, Political economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam, Conférence de Rana P. Behal (University of Delhi), avec le soutien de l’AFHMT et du CEIAS.

Mercredi 12 février, 14h-17h, EHESS – Salle 662, 190-198 avenue de France, 75013 Paris
Métro : Quai de la Gare (6) ou Bibliothèque (14)

L’ouvrage récemment publié par Rana P. Behal (One Hundred Years of Servitude – Political Economy of Tea Plantations in Colonial Assam, Tulia Books, New Delhi) revient sur un siècle d’histoire dans les plantations de thé de la vallée d’Assam en Inde, durant la domination coloniale britannique. Les six chapitres du livre étudient la période des années 1840 au milieu du XXe siècle. Au cours de celle-ci, plus de deux millions de travailleurs migrants, soumis à un régime d’asservissement contractuel (indentured servitude), produisirent dans ces plantations le thé destiné à un commerce international de plus en plus lucratif.

La présentation sera suivie d’un débat introduit par ALESSANDRO STANZIANI, Directeur d’études, EHESS-CNRS, CRH.

Contacts : Paul Boulland / Vanessa Caru

[Call for papers] Indentured Migrant Labor and Indentured Laborers in the Heart of Colonial Empires

Call For Papers

Indentured Migrant Labor and Indentured Laborers in the Heart of Colonial Empires:
State of the field and research perspectives
17th-21st centuries
Bordeaux, May 11-12, 2015

This international conference will be held as part of the 5th Rencontres Atlantiques (Atlantic conference series) organized by the Musée d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux and the International center for Research on Slavery (CIRESC).

As bonded labor, slavery and the slavetrade were being debated, condemned and gradually forbidden by colonial and imperial powers, projects advocating the use of indentured migrant laboremerged. This was meant to take in the colonies free foreign labor who, before leaving their country of origin, had signed a contractwhich would legally oblige them to work for an employer for a fixed number of years. Though strongly inspired by the indenture system put in place in America in the seventeenth century, these projects must be distinguished from the latter system, notably because they would concern almost exclusively non-European populations. The use of this new type of labor –indentured non-European migrants –kept on growing throughout the nineteenth century and lasted until the aftermath of the First World War.

Thus, for more than a century, thousands of workers, men, women and children, left the Asian and African continents as indentured labor for either the American colonies or the former colonies located in the Indian Ocean, or for the territories recently conquered by imperial powers in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The departure and the arrival of thousands of indentured laborers had a huge impact on the economies of the colonial societies and their social and racial organizations, as well as on the cultures and lives of indigenous peoples, and those of the laborers themselves. These impacts were all the more significant as for many of the latter, temporary migration became permanent. And indeed, these indentured laborers permanently altered life and traditions in the colonies they integrated. The legacy of this peculiar type of migration is still very much present in today’s post-colonial societies.
Compared to the abundant historiography devoted to slavery, the slave trade and the migratory movements of European workers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and despite its being essential to understand colonialism and imperialism, the indenture system has only been marginally studied. However, in recent decades many researchers have studied these migrations and this system of labor. However, most of the research in this field is generally centered on the experience of a specific group of migrants, defined by continental origin, place of departure or final destination. For instance, because of their longevity and their numerical strength, the indenture system put in place in the Indian Ocean and the indentured Indian population received great attention, especially within the British Empire.

This international conference intends to contribute to a reconsideration of the historiography of the indenture system, the latter having been too often fragmented by Empire, colony, or group of indentured laborers. We thus wish to bring together specialists working on different regions, empires or colonies,on different periods and issues, so as to encourage comparative, cross and comprehensive studies on the many questions raised by the indenture system.

The committee especially encourages the submission of proposals with a comparative approach, or articulating different political and/or geographical scales, or placing indentured laborers or their descendants at the center of the research.
Suggested topics for paper proposals: the genealogy of indentured migrant labor, the various rationales explaining the use of such labor; recruitment conditions; links or interconnections between indentured migration and other types of migration, the construction of the legal tools to manage and control these foreign workers but also their descendants, the demographic, economic, social, cultural and political impacts of these migrations and this form of work on the colonialsocieties and their populations, the social and racial reorganizations that may have resulted from these migrations; the migrants’ motivations when indenturing themselves, reactions and/or strategies of resistance in the colonies; indentured laborers’ strategies for integration, the laborers’ circulations in the various colonies and/or empires; the formation of diasporas; the contemporary legacies, the ways in which the indentured system has been remembered and commemorated, and the identity claims of people defining themselves as descendants of indentured migrants.

Submission guidelines

Please send an abstract (300 to 500 words) in English or French, and a one-page CV to: colloquengagisme@gmail.com
No later than December 14, 2014


Nathalie Collain (CNRS/CRPLC/CIRESC), Céline Flory (CNRS/Mondes Américains/CERMA/CIRESC), Sophie Fontan (Musée d’Aquitaine), François Hubert (Musée d’Aquitaine), Katia Kukawka (Musée d’Aquitaine)

Scientific Committee

Antonio de Almeida Mendes (Université de Nantes/CRHIA/CIRESC)
Laurence Brown (Université de Manchester)
Virginie Chaillou (Université de Nantes/CRHIA)
Céline Flory (CNRS/Mondes Américains/CERMA/CIRESC)
François Hubert (Musée d’Aquitaine)
Katia Kukawka (Musée d’Aquitaine)
Jean Moomou (Université des Antilles/AIHP GEODE)
Alessandro Stanziani (CNRS/EHESS/CRH)
Ibrahima Thioub (Université Cheik Anta Diop/CARTE)

Chinese Railroad Workers

For those interested in 19th Century Chinese labor migrations to the West, Stanford University has launched a project on Chinese railroad Workers with plenty of online materials and upcoming events in 2015.

Presentation :

“Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants toiled at a grueling pace and in perilous working conditions to help construct America’s First Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project seeks to give a voice to the Chinese migrants whose labor on the Transcontinental Railroad helped to shape the physical and social landscape of the American West. The Project coordinates research in the United States and Asia in order to create an on-line digital archive available to all. The Project is also organizing major conferences and public events at Stanford and in China in 2015 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of large numbers of Chinese to work on the railroad.
2015 will be the 150th anniversary of the introduction of large numbers of Chinese workers on the construction of the first transcontinental railway across North America, a project that culminated with Leland Stanford driving the famous “golden spike” completing the line. The labor of these Chinese workers (who eventually numbered between 10-15,000 at any one moment) was central to creating the wealth that Leland Stanford used to found Stanford University. But these workers have never received the attention they deserve. We know relatively little about their lives. What led them to come to the United States? What experiences did they have in their arduous work? How did they live their daily lives? What kinds of communities did they create? How did their work on the railroad change the lives of their families in China and how did it change the lives of the workers themselves, both those who returned to China or went elsewhere after the railroad’s completion and those who stayed in the U.S.?”

More on the project website

Doc/Post-doc fellowships – Max Plank Institut

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the world’s leading centres for research in
social anthropology. Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative
analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to
anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology has the opportunity to offer 2 PhD grants starting 1st of October 2014 (or as soon as possible thereafter), within the Research Group

“Connectivity in Motion: Port Cities of the Indian Ocean” Headed by Prof. Dr. Burkhard Schnepel (MPI-Fellow)

The Research Group examines the socio-cultural and historical dimensions of movements across the
Indian Ocean. Several paradigmatic port cities of the Indian Ocean are taken as empirical starting
points for social anthropological and ethnohistorical research. The Research Group is guided by the
theorem of connectivity in motion”. Hence, it studies the manifold linkages and networks across the
Indian Ocean, focusing on the maritime movements of human beings, material objects, ideas,
religions, languages, political systems and technologies through which alone such connections come to
life. Taking the Indian Ocean as a frame of reference and applying a transregional perspective on
“connectivity in motion” also seeks to achieve new insights in the problematic of globalization. It adds
historical depth to and “re-orients” common views of globalization, as it is concerned not only with
earlier, but also with eastern and southern forms of globalization.
For further information on the programme, see:

Essential Duties & Responsibilities
We expect successful candidates to conduct intensive ethnohistorical research in one or more port
cities of the Indian Ocean of their own choices, preferably at the East African Coast or in
Southeast Asia.

Your Profile
Good field research skills, the ability and willingness to work in a team, communication skills with
good and written English are required. As a rule dissertations will be written in English. Acquisition of
German language is encouraged and assisted by the MPI.

The curriculum will take place in Halle/Saale and the group will work together also in Halle/Saale.

Our Offer
The PhD grants offered here will be awarded for three years, with the possibility of two six-month
extensions. The grants are not taxed and they are free from social security stipulations.

The Max Planck Society strives to employ more persons with disabilities and explicitly encourages
applications. Furthermore, the Max Planck Society is committed to raising the proportion of women in
underrepresented fields; we thus explicitly encourage applications by women.

The MaxNetAging Research is also seeking applications for doc and post-doc starting February 2015
Details here and here

“Slavery in Africa: Past, Heritage, Present”

The organizing committee of the international conference, “Slavery in Africa: Past, Heritage, Present” are inviting all interested researchers to submit paper or panel proposals. The conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from October 27-29, 2014.

This international conference seeks to mark a significant moment in the reactivation and intensification of research on slavery in Africa. The conference will look at all types of sources, – oral, written and audio-visual, – with a particular focus on the collection and analysis of testimonies by slaves and their descendants. Moreover, the conference aims to promote a better understanding of the links between African slavery and different slave trades, which have been studied extensively in African historiography.

For more details, click here or download the flyer.

[Conference] Indian Women within Indentured Labour in Mauritius in the Nineteenth Century

Announcing confernce “Indian Women within Indentured Labour in Mauritius in the Nineteenth Century”

by Lorna Mungur, MA Student, Indian Ocean World Centre, McGill University

Wednesday, 30 October 2013, 116 Peterson Hall, 4:45 pm

Following the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, Indian indentured labourers migrated to Mauritius to work within the plantation economy of the island. Approximately 453,000 indentured labourers migrated to the island between 1834 and 1920. The focus of this paper is Indian women in Mauritius at the time of indentureship. Women’s social positions were defined by their role as wives and mothers, and colonial legislation on Indian marriages legally defined women as the subordinate of their husbands. Indian women’s position within nineteenth-century colonial Mauritian society illustrates that work was not synonymous with liberation; women relied on relationships with men to access social and economic capital. Thus, migration did not create new opportunities; rather it enforced women’s inferiority and dependence on their male counterparts within the colonial landscape, reaffirming patriarchal control over Indian women. Hence, this paper argues that Indian women’s opportunities in Mauritius lay in marriage, not in work, creating a state of dependency where women had to rely socially, economically and legally on men.