Confronting Change: Globalization, Migration and Precarious Labour in the Age of Brexit

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Gareth Curless
University of Exeter

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.

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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 aim of this one day conference is to bring together academics, policymakers and trade union activists to reflect on the impact of globalization, migration and precarious labour and to consider the role of trade unions in the age of Brexit. The workshop will investigate the following questions: Continue reading “Confronting Change: Globalization, Migration and Precarious Labour in the Age of Brexit”

Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History

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Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History

Gareth Curless and Yann Beliard

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”

Colonial Counterinsurgency in Comparative Perspective, Sept. 18-19

Gareth Curless and Martin Thomas
Centre for War, State, and Society, University of Exeter

Palestine police poster (1)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”

Reminder: Networks in Imperial and Global History Conference, University of Exeter (June 19-20)

Gareth Curless

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.

Where: Reed Hall, University of Exeter

When: 19 and 20 June 2014

Program

Continue reading “Reminder: Networks in Imperial and Global History Conference, University of Exeter (June 19-20)”

Conference: Trade Unions in the Global South, From Imperial Rule to the Present Day

Gareth Curless

Where: 9am-5.30pm, Friday 13 June 2014, Congress House, London

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.

This event is funded by the ESRC. It is free to attend and open to all but space is limited. Spaces will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis. To reserve your place please contact Gareth Curless (g.m.curless@exeter.ac.uk), University of Exeter.  Continue reading “Conference: Trade Unions in the Global South, From Imperial Rule to the Present Day”

Covering Up the Dark Side of Decolonisation

Gareth Curless

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”

Reconciling Trade Unionism with Decolonisation in the Global South

Gareth Curless

Lim Chin Siong, a leading labor leader in Singapore from the late 1950s to early 1960s.
Lim Chin Siong, a leading labour leader in Singapore from the late 1950s to early 1960s.

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”