Development and Securitisation, and (Counter)-Insurgency
Joint research workshop:
Understanding Insurgencies network and The worlds of (under)development: processes and legacies of the Portuguese colonial empire in a comparative perspective (1945-1975)
Lisbon, Portugal, 14-15 March 2019
Call for Papers
Proposals for papers are invited from members of the Understanding Insurgencies network and others for a two-day research workshop exploring the connections between development initiatives and counter-insurgent efforts to restore, impose, or otherwise establish forms of social control.
Enmeshed in rhetoric of poverty reduction and enhanced social opportunity, colonial development is increasingly viewed by scholars more sceptically: less as evidence of imperial goodwill than as an instrument of social and geo-political control in the face of mounting anti-colonial opposition. Sometimes described as integral to colonial claims to modernization, development policies could be highly coercive. At one level, technical aid and financial support was expected to diminish the appeal of anti-colonial alternatives, thereby stabilizing imperial order. At another, more tangible level, the instruments of development were often directives requiring forced relocation, the abandonment of customary practices, or the fulfillment of obligations that rendered individuals legible to – and controllable by – colonial authority. Arguments over development thus encapsulated the tension intrinsic to colonial authority: limited interventionism and purported respect for local ‘tradition’ or the pursuit of heightened social control characteristic of development projects. Continue reading “Call for papers: Development and Securitisation, and (Counter)-Insurgency”→
Labour historians have been particularly attuned to the global turn. Over the last decade labour historians have become not only more global in their outlook, but they have also begun to pay greater attention to subjects that speak to contemporary concerns associated with globalization. This has given rise to a number of studies considering a diverse array of subjects, including ‘global’ occupations, forms of free and unfree labour migration, and the global dimensions of working-class formation. The benefits of this global approach are immeasurable. Among other things it has highlighted the importance of studying labour in globalized sectors over the longue durée; it has brought into question the teleological assumption that labour movements inevitably develop a national character; and it has underscored the point that working-class formation was driven by processes that occurred across territorial borders.
The danger with global approaches, however, is that they can flatten and homogenize the experience of labour, emphasizing connection over disconnection, and privileging subaltern agency, co-operation, and mobility over class-, gender-, and race-based hierarchies of power. These issues are particularly pertinent to colonial contexts. Racialised labour recruitment practices, punitive and draconian labour legislation, and the deployment of state violence in response to worker protest all served to accentuate differences and inhibit collective action. Put simply, the task for labour historians is to focus not only the ‘free’ movement of labour and the associated flow of ideas, discourses, and practices across territorial borders but to investigate the role of coercion and state regulation in facilitating and restricting such movements.
On Wednesday 11 January 2017, the University of Exeter and the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department will host a public conference at Congress House, London. To register for this event please visit the Eventbrite page for the conference. The event is free to attend and all are welcome but space is limited.
The EU referendum has brought to the fore debates concerning the effects of globalization, migration and casual or ‘precarious’ labour in twenty-first century Britain. These issues are not limited to the U.K., however. Over the course of the past three decades the dominance of neo-liberal economics, and the associated processes of privatisation and de-regulation, have contributed to widening inequality and a decline in formal sector employment across the globe. For organised labour movements these pressures have brought ever greater challenges, as trade unions have fought to resist the erosion of hard won labour rights and protect the living standards of their members. On these issues trade unions have won some notable victories but it is clear that further challenges lie ahead.
Indeed, for all neo-liberalism’s dominance over the past thirty years, the world finds itself at a crossroads. The 2008 financial crash; the debt and migration crises within Europe; the election of Donald Trump and rise of protectionism in the United States; and Brexit have all served to shake the foundations of the established global order. In turn, these events have led to a polarised debate between those who favour a renewed push for ever-greater levels of global inter-dependence and those that advocate a return to economic nationalism. For trade unions the challenge is not to allow this uncertainty to accelerate recent changes within the labour market, particularly with regard to the exploitation of migrants and undercutting of existing workforces, the rise of precarious labour and the imposition of stricter trade union laws. Instead trade unions should continue their active role in shaping debates about the deleterious effects of casualization and the infringement of labour rights by both states and employers.
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. Continue reading “Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History”→
Online registration is now open for a two-day conference, ‘Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective’, to be held on 18 and 19 September 2014, the University of Exeter.
The recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have prompted renewed interest in Britain’s colonial experience of rebellion and state breakdown, while current French interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic have stirred controversy over French military actions in former colonial dependencies, promoting accusations of ‘imperialist humanitarianism’. Yet, in spite of increasing interest in the history of counterinsurgency and empire, we lack comparative studies of colonial responses to armed insurrection, civil disorder, anti-colonial paramilitaries and other irregular forces. The aim of the conference is to address this imbalance by drawing on examples from the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese empires, as well as case studies from China and Southern Africa. Continue reading “Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19”→
The Imperial and Global History Network for early career scholars will be holding its first conference on 19th and 20th June 2014 at the University of Exeter. The conference will bring together early career scholars from across the world, discussing a range of topics including America’s Drone Empire, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, and Treaty Port China. Registration for the conference is now open and information about how to register can be found here.
To mark the important role that trade unions have played in popular protests in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, History & Policy’s Trade Union Forum and the Trades Union Congress will host a one day conference. The conference will reflect on the relationship between trade unions and the state in the Global South, as well as the role of labour movements in popular protests from the end of imperial rule to the present day.
Historians of empire have long suspected that documents from the colonies were transferred back to Britain during the last days of imperial rule, only never to enter into the public domain. It was no small surprise therefore when in April 2011 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), under pressure from a high court judge, admitted that it had a secret archive of nearly 9,000 files from 37 colonies. Perhaps the biggest surprise from the ruling was how easy it was for the FCO to keep these documents hidden from historians for so long. Continue reading “Covering Up the Dark Side of Decolonisation”→
This year marks the 50th anniversary of ‘Operation Coldstore’, when in 1963 Singapore’s Internal Security Council authorised the arrest of over 100 leftist and labour activists. The arrests severely weakened both Barisan Sosialis, a left-wing political party, and the trade union movement, thereby consolidating the Popular Action Party’s (PAP) position as the dominant political force in Singapore. As a result of the PAP’s triumph, the role of trade unions in official histories of Singapore’s struggle for independence has largely been overlooked, with left-wing activists commonly depicted as nothing more than stooges for the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). The marginalisation of the role of trade unions in Singapore’s fight for independence is typical of many former colonial territories, where the actions of labour activists and trade unions during the period of decolonisation are overlooked in favour of broader narratives that focus on imperial decline and the triumph of nationalist elites. Yet, as was demonstrated in the 1950s and 1960s during the struggle for independence and again during the pro-democracy campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s, trade unions in the global south have and continue to play a critical role in movements for social and political change. Continue reading “Reconciling Trade Unionism with Decolonisation in the Global South”→