Centre for African Studies (LUCAS)

General enquiries

Leeds University Centre for African Studies
c/o POLIS,
Social Sciences Building,
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT

Tel: 0113 343 5069

LUCAS Schools Project coordinator

Richard Borowski

CfP: After Slavery? Labour and Migration in the Post-Emancipation World

After Slavery? Conference

After Slavery? Conference

After Slavery? Labour and Migration in the Post-Emancipation World

A Two Day Conference at the University of Leeds

Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 June 2016

Despite the much vaunted abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean and Mascarenes in 1833/4, patterns of labour and migration in the post-emancipation empire continued to blur the boundaries between ‘free’ and ‘unfree’ labour. Apprenticeship extended the planters’ control over their former chattels until 1838, while slavery itself remained in place in India until 1843, and continued in other European colonies and in the American South well into the late nineteenth century.  ‘Free’ labour experiments in Sierra Leone and Liberia were beset with problems, working conditions in the former slave colonies remained uneven and exploitative, and nations who had ended slavery in their own colonies continued to purchase slave-grown produce from those who had not. Meanwhile the migration of 1.3 million Indians on contracts of indenture to colonies in the West Indies, Africa, Mascarenes, Fiji and other locations around the world was labeled a ‘new system of slavery’, despite increasingly sophisticated systems of regulation, and evidence of migrant agency in patterns of migration and re-migration. More recently, the continued prevalence of diverse forms of coercion within ever expanding global labour markets has been dubbed ‘modern slavery’, and exploitation and compulsion in contexts as varied as the sex trade, sweatshops, domestic service and manual labour have drawn attention to the continued inequity of working conditions across the world. This had led to much needed academic, political and public debate, but in the process has also sometimes prompted a re-articulation of earlier abolitionist tropes in which humanitarian sentiment is cross-cut by essentialist assumptions of race, class and gender.

This conference seeks to explore the emergence of global patterns of labour and migration in the post-emancipation world in ways that move beyond nineteenth century constructions of ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ and look instead at the diverse, nuanced and often ambivalent experiences over time and space. It seeks to break down unhelpful assumptions about ‘active’ and ‘passive’ migration, and ‘free’ and ‘unfree’ labour in order to describe the uneven, ambivalent, but extremely important ways in which labourers and migrants exerted their own agency, asserted their own identities and aspirations, and shaped their own individual and collective outcomes, even in the face of various forms of coercion and exploitation. By bringing together scholars of labour and migration from various disciplinary backgrounds, and with a range of regional and chronological specialisms, it aims to open up comparative perspectives and productive conversations that move beyond dominant colonial and post-colonial narratives to explore diverse experiences of labour migration from a range of disciplinary, theoretical and subaltern perspectives.

Keynote Speakers

Prof. Richard B. Allen (Framingham University, Massachusetts)

Prof. David Lambert (University of Warwick)

‘Juxtapositions’ and ‘Cool!tudes’ Exhibitions

The conference will accompanied by two exhibitions on indentured migration in the Indian Ocean. The first, ‘Juxtapositions’ using visual and textual sources to explore the many contrast and contradictions that epitomised the experience for the 1.3 million labour migrants who left India to work on contracts of indenture in colonies around the world. The second, ‘Cool!tudes’, showcases images by artists Danny Flynn and Andil Gosine, who have used images from the indentured labour archive to produce stunning new original artwork.

Call for Papers

Paper proposals are invited exploring all aspects of the post-emancipation labour experience. Of particular interest are those that deal with the lived experience of, and subaltern agency among labour migrants, as well as the theoretical and conceptual issues involved in the study of labour and migration in both historical and contemporary contexts.  Key themes may include: lived experiences and quotidian encounters; agency, identity and social mobility; government regulation, legislation and formal and informal controls; gender, family and domestic relations; patterns of migration, re-migration and return; colonial and post-colonial debates; conceptual and theoretical issues around categories of labour migration etc.

If you would like to submit a paper proposal, please send a 250 word abstract by 8th April 2016 to a.major@leeds.ac.uk

Notification of acceptance of papers will be given by 30th April 2016.

Registration and Attendance

The conference will take place at the School of History, Michael Sadler Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT on 27 and 28 June 2016. Attendance at the conference is free, but advance registration is required. Please email a.major@leeds.ac.uk to secure your place.

After Slavery? Conference

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