Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History
The European Labour History Network is hosting its first conference at the University of Turin from 14-16 December 2015. The aim of the conference is to connect historians working in the sub-fields associated with Labour History, one of which is imperial labour history. CIGH’s Gareth Curless and Yann Beliard, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, are responsible for co-ordinating the Imperial Labour History Group. As part of the conference, Gareth and Yann will be organising a workshop on the subject of imperial labour history. The objective of the workshop is to consider imperial labour history within the wider context of imperial historiography, investigating how labour historians can contribute to ‘new imperial history’, as well as emerging trends resulting from the ‘global’ or ‘transnational turn’. The Call for Papers can be found below and the organisers would welcome contributions from not just historians but also political scientists and social movement theorists:
The ‘cultural turn’ has revitalised the study of imperialism, moving imperial history away from its traditional focus on administrative and diplomatic elites, conquest and administration, and the geo-politics of empire, to subjects such as race, gender, and sexuality. Few studies, however, have focused on the concepts of class and labour. Such neglect is unsurprising but it is detrimental both to the study of empire and to the exploration of how imperialism affected metropolitan societies.
The impact of the labour issue on the territories colonised by the European powers, especially with regard race and gender, cannot underestimated: racial hierarchies were used by the imperial authorities to justify racially segregated labour regimes, while the introduction of new forms of production often had a disruptive impact on gender relations within colonial societies. In the metropoles too, empire and labour came to be part and parcel of the imperial experience, as workers from the colonies or ex-colonies became integrated, albeit problematically, within the domestic working-classes – while labour organisations strove to define a ‘correct’ attitude towards empire, imperialism and later decolonisation.
Colonial labourers were not passive bystanders in these processes: racial hierarchies could be subverted through the establishment of multi-racial associations, while the circulation of migrant labour helped to facilitate the transmission of ideas, discourses, and militant practices within and between empires, over which the imperial authorities exercised little or no control. As for the organised labour movement both in its metropolitan and colonial settings, it played a part in the rise and fall of empire, (most notably in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean during the decolonisation struggles after 1945, which is deserving of further attention.
In view of the importance of labour to the history of empires, the aim of this conference is to reintegrate the study of labour into imperial historiography and consider its relationship to recent developments in the field. With this in mind, the organisers of the Imperial History Working Group invite papers that address one or more of the following topics:
- Colonial labour regimes, including the relationship between labour and racial identity, workplace surveillance and resistance, and the political economy of colonial labour relations.
- Attitudes towards empire in the metropolitan labour movement, ranging from ‘reformist imperialism’ to overt anti-colonialism.
- Strikes, riots, and workplace stoppages in colonial settings; imperial responses to labour unrest, including both its violent suppression and supposedly ‘non-violent’ methods, such as increased social welfare provision.
- The colonial workers’ experience in the metropole; their relation to friendly societies, cooperatives, trade-unions and political parties.
- Empires, migrant labour and the development diasporic networks and identities.
- The role of labour uprisings and organisations in anti-colonial and nationalist movements.
- Transnational networks of labour activists, including both ‘indigenous’ labour leaders and metropolitan ones.
- The relationship between the labour rights in colonial contexts and the emergence of the global rights order, particularly after 1945.
- Labour after empire, including, for example, the relationship between the labour movement and the independent regimes of Africa and Asia during the 1950s and 1960s.
The contributors invite proposals for 20-minute papers that consider these issues in any of the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century European empires, as well as Latin America and the contiguous empires of the United States, Russia, and East Asia. Proposals, which should include a 300 word abstract and one page C.V., should be submitted to:
Gareth Curless (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Yann Beliard (email@example.com).
The deadline for proposals is 31 August 2015.