Dr. Thomas Adams
The University of Sydney, Australia
Robert Charles'Worlds: Labor, Migration and the Political Economy of the Jim Crow Gulf Coast, 1877-1965
Thomas Adams is a historian from the United States with a particular research interest in the various histories of human inequality and the occasional ways in which they have been overcome. His main areas of focus are the history of labour and political economy along with urbanity, African American life, gender, social movements and contemporary political life. He also works closely on the history and present of New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast of the United States.
He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago in 2009 and his main research fields were nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. history, comparative global labour and political economy and social theory. His dissertation project, which will soon be published as a monograph, is a study of the history of service as a cultural and political category of human labour in the U.S. and the way in which this history forms the backdrop to America’s stubborn refusal to imagine certain kinds of labour as avenues to economic security. From 2009 to 2014 he was Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow at Tulane University. In 2014, he took up a permanent position in History and American Studies at the University of Sydney, where he is also Academic Director of the United States Studies Centre.
At re:work he will be working on a monograph research project tentatively entitled ‘Robert Charles’ Worlds: Labour, Migration and the Political Economy of the Jim Crow Gulf Coast’. In the main, this project seeks to reframe the history and politics of disenfranchisement and segregation in relationship to a variety of shifts in urban political economy, labour radicalism and defeat and the movements of peoples and commodities between New Orleans, the rural U.S. South, the Gulf of Mexico Basin and Southern Europe.
He recently completed a collection of essays with his former colleague Matt Sakakeeny entitled Remaking New Orleans: Beyond Exceptionalism and Authenticity (Duke UP, 2019). This book uses New Orleans as a site to challenge implicit and explicit usages of authenticity and exceptionalism in the humanistic social sciences and humanities as legitimating agents for a reification of structural inequality and ahistorical notions of static culture. In 2014, he edited with Striffler Working in the Big Easy: The History and Politics of Labour in New Orleans (U of Louisiana Press) the first book that attempts to present a history of labour in the city from its founding to the present. Other recent articles include: a critique of the contemporary discourse of economic inequality (‘The Theater of Inequality’,‘ Nonsite, 2014); a study of early debates over undocumented labour as an economic problem (‘Immigration Politics, Service Labour, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in Southern California’, in Marilyn Halter et al, eds., What’s New About the New Immigration, 2014); an analysis of the devaluation of service labour in the television series The Wire ( ‘Gender, The Wire, and the Limits of the Producerist Critique of Modern Political Economy’, Labour, 2013); and a variety of opinion essays in outlets like Jacobin and Common Dreams.
with Matt Sakakeeny. Remaking New Orleans. Beyond Exceptionalism and Authenticity. Durham NC: Duke University Press, forthcoming.
‘Immigration Politics, Service Labor, and the Problem of the Undocumented Worker in Southern California’. In What’s New About the ‘New’ Immigration?, edited by Marilyn Halter et al. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
‘The Theater of Inequality’. Nonsite, no. 12 (2014).
with Steve Striffler. Working in the Big Easy. The History and Politics of Labor in New Orleans. Lafayette, LA: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2014.
‘Gender, The Wire, and the Limits of the Producerist Critique of Modern Political Economy’. Labor. Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 10, no. 1 (March 2013): 29–34.
Last updated: August 9, 2018
Dr. Supurna Banerjee
Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK), India
From Mazdoor to Naukrani: Making of a Precariat Labour
Supurna Banerjee completed her PhD in Sociology from the University in Edinburgh in 2014. Her PhD, now a monograph entitled ‘Activism and Agency in India: Nurturing Resistance in the Tea Plantations’, explores gendered relations of labour in the tea plantations of Dooars in West Bengal, India. Through ethnography at two tea plantations the study explores the complexities of a space which is both a work-site as well as the place of residence for these migrant workers. Women’s work in the plantations is mapped onto their ‘natural’ physiological or psychological traits thus rendering irrelevant questions of training, practice and skill. This results in concentration of women in low paid jobs. The study also explores the myriad ways in which the women’s everyday lived experiences illustrate an active negotiation with their situations.
Banerjee was a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata (IDSK) on an Indian Council of Social Science Research project called ‘Trade Unions and Collective Bargaining: Case Study of West Bengal’. In 2014 she joined IDSK as a faculty member in political science. She has been a Co-Principal Investigator on an Indian Council of Social Science Research project entitled ‘Reconceptualising Domestic Violence: Shifting Discourse within the Women’s Movement in India’ and on a Morrell Trust Fund, York University, UK funded project on ‘Inequality, Injustice and Exploitation: The Different Blends in Assam Tea’. While gender and labour are her primary interests, her research interests also include marginalities, intersectionality, urban studies and migration.
While at re:work Banerjee will be working on a project entitled ‘From Mazdoor to Naukrani: Making of Precariat Labour’. The shrinking of India’s formal organised workforce has been matched by the growth of the unorganised workforce. Banerjee traces this process of making/unmaking an urban casualised workforce from one of the most organised employment sectors in India—the tea plantations. She traces the modes through which tea plantation workforce was created as ‘docile’ and the workers’ negotiations with it. Her work will focus on the present moment of crisis in the tea plantations of West Bengal since the 2000s and the resultant migration of the workforce, especially women, and their employment in various unorganised sectors in other parts of the country. She traces the social history of creation of this urban precariat workforce and provides insights on the changing ideas of skill, free/unfree labour, gendering of work and inter-generational negotiations with changing patterns of life-course.
‘From “Plantation Workers” to “Naukrāni”. The Changing Labour Discourses of Migrant Domestic Workers’. Journal of South Asian Development 13, no. 2 (forthcoming).
with Nandini Ghosh. ‘Debating Intersectionalities. Challenges for a Methodological Framework’. South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, forthcoming.
Activism and Agency in India. Nurturing Resistance in the Tea Plantations. London: Routledge, 2017.
‘Too Much or Too Little? Paradoxes of Disability and Care Work in India’. Review of Disability Studies 13, no. 4 (2017).
with Zaad Mahmood. ‘Judicial Intervention and Industrial Relations. Exploring Industrial Disputes Cases in West Bengal’. Industrial Law Journal 46, no. 3 (September 2017): 366–96.
‘We Are Still Junglis to Them. Institutionalising Marginalities Among the Adivasis in Dooars’. In From the Margins to the Mainstream. Institutionalising Minorities in South Asia, edited by Hugo Gorringe, Roger Jeffery, and Suryakant Waghmore. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2016.
Last updated: August 15, 2018
Dr. Eszter Bartha
Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem, Budapest, Hungary
Social and Political Attitudes of the "Old” and "New” Industrial Working Classes in Eastern Germany (the former GDR) and Hungary
Dr. habil. Eszter Bartha is Associate Professor at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) of Budapest, Hungary (Department of Eastern European Studies). Her main field of research is the post-war social history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on labour. She has published extensively on the state socialist era and the working class including her book Alienating Labour: Workers on the Road from Socialism to Capitalism in East Germany and Hungary (2013) published by Berghahn. Her current research at re:work focuses on the formation of the new industrial working class in East Germany and Hungary and the social and political attitudes of the blue-collar workers of multinational companies.
‘"This Workers’ Hostel Lost Almost Every Bit of Added Value It Had”. Workers’ Hostels, Social Rights and Legitimization in Welfare Dictatorships’. In Labor in State Socialist Europe after 1945. Contributions to Global Labor History, edited by Marsha Siefert. Budapest; New York: Central European University Press, forthcoming.
‘Transforming Labour. From the Workers’ State to the Post-Socialist Re-Organization of Industry and Workplace Communities’. Jahrbuch Für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook 58, no. 2 (2017): 413–38.
with Tamás Bezsenyi, eds. Egy másik Kelet-Európa. Munkás-és társadalomtörténeti tanulmányok Mark Pittaway emlékére [=Another Eastern Europe. Studies in Labour and Social History in Honor of Mark Pittaway]. Budapest: ELTE BTK Kelet-Európa Története Tanszék, 2017.
‘Combattenti solitari. Lavoratori tedeschi e ungheresi in epoca postcomunista [=Lonely Fighters. German and Hungarian Workers in Post-communism Period]’. Passato e Presente 31, no. 88 (2013): 37–56.
‘“Something Went Wrong with This Capitalism”. Illusion and Doubt in a Hungarian (Post)Industrial Community’. In Ethnographies of Doubt. Faith and Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies, edited by Mathijs Pelkmans, 191–224. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013.
Last updated: September 27, 2018
Prof. Baz Lecocq
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Awad el Djouh: A Global Microhistory of Slave Trade in the Mid-Twentieth Century
Baz Lecocq has been Professor of African History at the Humboldt University of Berlin's Institute of Asian and African Studies (IAAW) since 2014. He was Professor of African History at Ghent University, Belgium between 2007 and 2014 (where he still holds a guest professorship). He is a specialist on contemporary history and politics of the Central Sahara and Sahel, and he focuses on the ways in which local political and social structures developed and changed in relation to colonial and postcolonial states. These changes include state and nation-building, the politics of religion, economic changes, changes in attitudes toward labour and labour migration and the changes in social cultural hierarchies between people of noble origins and people of slave descent, influencing local perceptions of life cycles and upward social and political mobility.
His current project at re:work focuses on the latter as well as on ways in which local perceptions of social origins and attitudes to labour clashed with the global modern legal systems put in place to protect free labour and with the demands and expectations of colonial labour policies. The central case is the story of a man from present-day Northern Mali, named Awad el Djouh, who was sold into slavery in Mecca by another man from the same region, called Mohamed Ali ag Attaher Insar, in 1948. In 1954, Awad el Djouh escaped and returned home, where he filed a complaint with the police. In the end the case was judged in French Sudan as a work dispute. The court cases in this litigation were supported by the French trade union CGT, which hoped to use Awad’s case to resolve issues surrounding the legal status of ‘customary labour relations’ that so far had remained outside legislation. The case gained international dimensions as it became entangled in the renewed debates in the ILO surrounding forced labour, debates heavily influenced by the Cold War setting, and similar discussions about slave trade that resurfaced and dominated conversations about human rights in the United Nations between 1954 and 1956. The project will demonstrate the ways in which the continued slave trade and hidden slavery within West Africa – now reformulated as 'work disputes' - influenced local debates on the nature and legal legitimacy of the colonial state in the era of decolonisation.
‘Awad El Djouh. A Story of Slave Trade in the Mid Twentieth Century’. In Magnifying Perspectives. Contributions to History, A Festschrift for Robert Ross, edited by Iva Peša and Jan-Bart Gewald, 149–65. Leiden: African Studies Centre, 2017.
‘Awad El Djouh and the Dynamics of Post-Slavery’. International Journal of African Historical Studies 48, no. 2 (2015): 193–208.
with Eric Hahonou. ‘Introduction. Exploring Post-Slavery in Contemporary Africa’. International Journal of African Historical Studies 48, no. 2 (2015): 181–92.
‘Tuareg City Blues. Cultural Capital in a Global Cosmopole’. In The Tuareg Society Within a Globalized World. Saharian Life in Transition, edited by Anja Fischer and Ines Kohl, 41–58. London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2010.
‘The Bellah Question. Slave Emancipation, Race, and Social Categories in Late Twentieth-Century Northern Mali’. Canadian Journal of African Studies 39, no. 1 (2005): 42–68.
‘Unemployed Intellectuals in the Sahara. The Teshumara Nationalist Movement and the Revolutions in Tuareg Society’. International Review of Social History 49, no. S12 (2004): 87–109.
Last updated: August 16, 2018
Prof. Marcel van der Linden
International Institute for Social History (IISH), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Why Do Workers (Not) Rebel?
Marcel van der Linden (1952) is Honorary Fellow at the International Institute of Social History (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), where he served as Research Director between 2001 and 2014. He is also emeritus professor of Social Movement History at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He received his PhD (1989) cum laude from the UvA. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo (2008), the René Kuczynski Prize (Vienna 2009) and the Historikerpreis (Bochum 2014). He was visiting professor in Vienna (2003 and 2008), held the Marcel Liebman Chair at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2009-10) and was Concurrent Professor at the University of Nanjing (2009-12). He is a co-founder of the Association of Indian Labour Historians (1996), the European Labour History Network (2013) and the Global Labour History Network (2015). He also is and has been President of the International Social History Association (2005-10, 2010-15, 2015-20). His books and articles have been published in seventeen languages.
At re:work he will be working on a book manuscript, Why Do People Not Rebel?, and he will finalize four volumes of The Global History of Work: Critical Readings (forthcoming in 2019).
with Gerald Hubmann, eds. Marx’s Capital. An Unfinishable Project? Boston: Brill, 2018.
with Hofmeester, Karin, eds. Handbook Global History of Work. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018.
with Kocka, Jürgen, eds. Capitalism. The Reemergence of a Historical Concept. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.
with Karl Heinz Roth, eds. Beyond Marx. Theorising the Global Labour Relations of the Twenty-First Century. Leiden: Brill, 2014.
Workers of the World. Essays Toward a Global Labor History. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
Transnational Labour History. Explorations. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.
Last updated: September 27, 2018
Prof. Dina Makram-Ebeid
The American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt
Precarious Revolution: Work and Labour in the Shadows of the Egyptian Rebellion of 2011
‘Between God and the State. Class, Precarity, and Cosmology on the Margins of an Egyptian Steel Town’. In Industrial Labor on the Margins of Capitalism. Precarity, Class, and the Neoliberal Subject, edited by Chris Hann and Jonathan Parry, 180–96. New York, NY: Berghahn, 2018.
‘Labour Struggles and the Quest for Permanent Employment in Revolutionary Egypt’. In The Political Economy of the New Egyptian Republic, edited by Nicholas S Hopkins, 65–84. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2015.
‘“Old People Are Not Revolutionaries!” Labor Struggles Between Precarity and Istiqrar in a Factory Occupation in Egypt’. Jadaliyya - جدلية, 25 January 2015.
‘Manufacturing Stability. Everyday Politics of Work in an Industrial Steel Town in Helwan, Egypt’. PhD, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), 2012.
Last updated: April 13, 2018
Dr. Melissa Marschke
University of Ottawa, Canada
Ecologies of Labour: Unpacking Labour Abuse in the Seafood Sector
Dr. Marschke is an Associate Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Melissa Marschke’s training is in human-environment relations, with an emphasis on livelihoods, common pool resources and environmental governance. Her geographical focus is Southeast Asia, although recently she’s also become interested in seafood in Canada and the Caribbean. She is currently involved in research projects examining: labour issues in the seafood sector; Asia’s dried fish economy; social wellbeing and ecosystem services bundles in coastal areas; and coastal sand mining. Dr. Marschke is the author of Life, Fish and Mangroves: Resource governance in coastal Cambodia (U Ottawa Press, 2012) and has published in various journals including Marine Policy, Environmental Science & Policy, Ecology & Society and Rural Studies.
Her re:work project is called ‘Ecologies of Labour: Unpacking labour, ecology and mobility within the seafood sector’. This research is predicated on the need to go beyond the frequent media and NGO reports that expose horrific stories of labour abuse across the seafood sector, or that document the broader prevalence of indicators of what some NGOs label trafficking or modern day slavery, to seek an understanding of the social and ecological conditions that produce such unacceptable working conditions. Dr. Marschke’s re:work project affords her an opportunity to trial and tweak a framework for understanding fisheries labour dynamics, ideally pointing towards potential policy solutions. She will test a framework that enables an intertwined focus on labour, ecology and mobility in fisheries through a meta-analysis of the literature and expand her geographical focus beyond Thai fisheries to include the border regions of Myanmar and Cambodia (and include sites beyond Southeast Asia) to examine fish work and labour practices. The intention of this research is to develop theoretical knowledge on the foundations of the current fishery crisis, an ability to address fisheries’ labour issues at a broader scale and shed insights on fisheries’ labour dynamics that will inform a longer-term research program.
with Simon Bush, and Ben Belton. ‘Labour, Social Sustainability and the Underlying Vulnerabilities of Work in Southeast Asia’s Seafood Value Chains’. In Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Development, edited by Andrew McGregor, Lisa Law, and Fiona Miller. London ; New York: Routledge, 2018.
with Courtney Kehoe, and Peter Vandergeest. ‘Migrant Worker Experiences in Atlantic Canadian Fish Processing Plants. Migrant Fish Workers’. The Canadian Geographer, 2018, 1–12.
with John N. Kittinger, Lydia C. L. Teh, Edward H. Allison, Nathan J. Bennett, Larry B. Crowder, Elena M. Finkbeiner, et al. ‘Committing to Socially Responsible Seafood’. Science 356, no. 6341 (2017): 912–13.
with Olivia Tran. ‘From Trafficking to Post-Rescue. Insights from Burmese Fishers on Coercion and Deception in (Anti)Trafficking Processes’. Series Paper 3. Bangkok: Issara Institute, 2017.
with Peter Vandergeest, and Olivia Tran. ‘Modern Day Slavery in Thai Fisheries. Academic Critique, Practical Action’. Critical Asian Studies 49, no. 3 (2017): 461–64.
with Peter Vandergeest. ‘Slavery Scandals. Unpacking Labour Challenges and Policy Responses Within the Off-Shore Fisheries Sector’. Marine Policy 68 (2016): 39–46.
Last updated: September 27, 2018
Prof. Blair Rutherford
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Labour and Social Citizenship in Neoliberal Times: Lessons from Rural Sub-Saharan Africa
Blair Rutherford is professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada (where he also was the founding director of its Institute of African Studies). For over 25 years, his ethnographic research in various countries in sub-Saharan Africa has focused on the cultural politics of predominantly rural livelihoods, examining in particular the varied terms, conditions and contestations of labour relations along racialized, gendered, classed and citizenship axes within overlapping (and at times competing) scales of action. His initial research in the 1990s examined farm workers on large-scale commercial farms in Zimbabwe (predominantly owned by white Zimbabweans) and their relationships with management, state authorities, political parties, trade unions and non-governmental organizations. His research then examined how these farm workers became entangled in the highly politicised land occupations and massive land redistribution program of white farms to black Zimbabwean farmers in the 2000s. He next conducted research with Zimbabwean migrants in northern South Africa, analysing how the shifting and often unclear immigration rules and policies towards them shaped their labour and other livelihood possibilities on commercial citrus farms and in the border town of Musina. Along with his Carleton colleague Doris Buss, he currently has been co-directing research projects examining artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) and their gendered livelihoods and authority relations in the context of various formalisation and legalisation initiatives.
His project for his re:work fellowship draws from ongoing research on ASM in different sub-Saharan African countries to examine how gender, kin and affinal categories and assumptions inform both opportunities and barriers in this sector in terms of the types of work available and their forms of remuneration, including the ability to recruit or be recruited for certain tasks. To do so requires understanding labour not only as a factor of production but also as a way to make claims on others. This involves analysing the bonds and dynamics of dependency and interdependency in which men and women are involved at different stages in the lifecycle. This research aims to understand the dynamics of precarity in light of policies and analyses concerning mining, social welfare and development.
Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe. The Ground of Politics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.
with Chris Huggins, and Doris Buss. ‘A “Cartography of Concern”. Place-Making Practices and Gender in the Artisanal Mining Sector in Africa’. Geoforum 83 (July 2017): 142–52.
‘The Politics of Boundaries. The Shifting Terrain of Belonging for Zimbabweans in a South African Border Zone’. African Diaspora 4, no. 2 (January 2011): 207–29.
‘An Unsettled Belonging. Zimbabwean Farm Workers in Limpopo Province, South Africa’. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26, no. 4 (October 2008): 401–15.
‘Conditional Belonging. Farm Workers and the Cultural Politics of Recognition in Zimbabwe’. Development and Change 39, no. 1 (January 2008): 73–99.
Working on the Margins. Black Workers, White Farmers in Postcolonial Zimbabwe. London & Harare: Zed Books & Weaver Press, 2001.
Last updated: August 9, 2018
Dr. Jana Tschurenev
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany
Widowhood, Professionalism and 'Social Service': Histories of Early Childhood Care and Education in India, 1880s to 1950s
Jana Tschurenev earned her PhD in 2009 from the Comparative Education Centre, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany with a thesis entitled ‘Imperial Experiments in Education. Monitorial Schooling in India, 1789-1840’. Her thesis, which explored processes of educational change in early colonial India, won the German Historical Institute London’s dissertation prize that same year.
From 2009-2013, Jana worked as a lecturer in Global History at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and guest lecturer at the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. In Zurich, she also coordinated a research group on anti-alcohol campaigns and moral reform with a global history perspective.
In 2013, she joined the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) at the University of Göttingen, Germany as a Principal Researcher with the Transnational Research Group on ‘Poverty and Education in India’ funded by the Max Weber Foundation (2013-2017). Now she is a guest lecturer at CeMIS, where she pursues her research project on ‘Widowhood, Professionalism and Social Service: Histories of Early Childhood Care and Education in India, 1880s to 1950s’. Her book project (Habilitation), which she will continue to focus on at re:work, analyses processes of professionalisation and institutionalisation of care and instruction for preschool children and their implication for the organisation of women’s reproductive labour. Jana’s research interests include the history of education, transnational history and gender and social inequality.
Empire, Civil Society, and the Beginnings of Colonial Education in India. Delhi: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.
‘A Colonial Experiment in Education. Madras, 1789-1796’. In Connecting Histories of Education. Transnational and Cross-Cultural Exchanges in (Post-)Colonial Education, edited by Barnita Bagchi, Eckhardt Fuchs, and Kate Rousmaniere. New York, NY ; London: Berghahn Books, 2014.
with Harald Fischer-Tiné, eds. A History of Alcohol and Drugs in Modern South Asia. London ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2014.
with Judith Große, and Francesco Spöring, eds. Biopolitik und Sittlichkeitsreform. Kampagnen gegen Alkohol, Drogen und Prostitution 1880-1950. Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2014.
‘Intersectionality, Feminist Theory, and Global History’. In Intersectionality Und Kritik. Neue Perspektiven Auf Alte Fragen, edited by Vera Kallenberg, Jennifer Meyer, and Johanna Müller. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2012.
Last updated: September 27, 2018
Dr. Nitin Varma
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
Domestic Work and Labour History in 19th and early 20th Century India
Nitin Varma studied history at the University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University (Delhi). He completed his doctorate in 2011 at the Humboldt University, Berlin on coolie labour in the colonial tea plantations of Assam. ‘Coolie’ is a generic category for ‘unskilled’ manual labourers in South Asia. In the nineteenth century there was an attempt to recast the term in discursive constructions and material practices for ‘mobilized-immobilized’ labour working in mines, at plantations and in other colonial capitalist enterprises. Coolie labour was often proclaimed as a deliberate compromise that straddled the regimes of the past (slave labour) and the future (free labour). His book Coolies of Capitalism published in 2016 makes a case for the ‘production’ of coolie labour in the history of the colonial-capitalist plantations in Assam. The main thrust of the book is to interrogate and situate the presumed unfettered influence of colonial-capitalism in defining and ‘producing’ coolies, with an emphasis on the attendant contingencies, negotiations, contestations and crises. This interrupted the abrupt appearance of the archetypical coolie of the tea gardens (i.e., imported and indentured) and situated this archetype’s emergence, sustenance and shifts in the context of material and discursive processes.
Nitin Varma recently collaborated on a three-year ERC Starting grant project (2015-2018) on domestic servants in colonial India. The aim of the project was to bring the rather neglected domestic work and workers within the fold of labour history and into sharper focus and also evaluate the possibilities and limits of transregional networks, connections and histories. This project aimed to simultaneously focus on the ‘local’ and translocal practices of domestic work through the prism of servants along multiple lines of enquiry: How were servants recruited? What were their conditions of employment and work? Was working as a servant a phase in their lifecycle or did these servants spend their lives with their employers’ family? How did such practices mutate over space and time? At re:work Nitin Varma plans to complete a series of publications from this research, including edited volumes, special issues of journals and a monograph.
‘Servant Testimonies and Anglo-Indian Homes in Nineteenth-Century India’. In To Be at Home. House, Work, and Self in the Modern World, edited by Felicitas Hentschke and James Williams. Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2018.
Coolies of Capitalism. Assam Tea and the Making of Coolie Labour. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2016.
‘Unpopular Assam. Notions of Migrating and Working for Tea Gardens’. In Towards a New History of Work, edited by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, 227–44. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2014.
‘Coolie Strikes Back. Collective Protest and Action in the Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam, 1880–1920’. In Adivasis in Colonial India. Survival, Resistance, and Negotiation, edited by Biswamoy Pati, 186–215. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research, 2010.
‘For the Drink of the Nation. Drink, Labour and Plantation Colonialism in the Colonial Tea Gardens of Assam in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century’. In Labour Matters. Towards Global Histories. Studies in Honour of Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, edited by Marcel van der Linden and Prabhu P. Mohapatra, 295–318. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2009.
‘Chargola Exodus and Collective Action in the Colonial Tea Plantations of Assam’. Sephis [= Special Issue on Labour in Memory of Late Rajnarayan Chandavarkar] 3, no. 2 (2007).
Last updated: September 27, 2018
Prof. Bahru Zewde
Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Corvée Labour in Ethiopian History
Bahru Zewde is currently Emeritus Professor of History at Addis Ababa University, Founding Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, Editor of the Africa Review of Books, and Vice President of the Association of African Historians. He was formerly Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, Executive Director of the Forum for Social Studies, a think tank based in Addis Ababa, and Vice President of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences. He has also served as Resident Vice President of the sub-regional research network Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) and as Editor of its journal, Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review. In addition to serving as Editor of the Journal of Ethiopian Studies for 15 years, he was a member of the International Advisory Board of the Journal of African History. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including from the British Academy, Japan Foundation and the Institute of Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg) in Berlin.
At re:work, he plans to examine the permutations of corvée labour in Ethiopian history. Corvée labour was a predominant feature of peasant-landlord relations throughout the centuries, obligating the peasant, among other things, to work on the farm of the landlord or state representative for certain days of the week, building his house and fences, keeping guard on his residence during his absence and having his grain ground for him. This onerous burden on the Ethiopian peasantry was highlighted with passion and poignancy by the reformist intellectuals of the early twentieth century. Probably inspired by the writings of these intellectuals, the progressive prince, Ras Tafari (the future Emperor Haile Selassie), issued three decrees between 1928 and 1944 that significantly eased the labour burden of the peasant and eventually abolished corvée labour. Progressive as they were, the measures did not abolish corvée in its entirety. Equally significant is the persistence of what one could call the ‘corvéee culture’ even after the formal abolition of the institution. Just as one could project corvée labour forwards in time, one could also stretch it backwards. The Ethiopian state has a long pedigree, going back at the very least two thousand years. What he proposes to do at re:work is to develop this investigation into the history of corvée labour by analysing its features and trajectory in greater detail and by putting it within the global context.
The Quest for Socialist Utopia. The Ethiopian Student Movement, c. 1960-1974. Woodbridge: James Currey, 2014.
Society, State, and History. Selected Essays. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University Press, 2008.
Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia. The Reformist Intellectuals of the Early Twentieth Century. Oxford: James Currey, 2002.
‘A Bibliographical Prelude to the Agrarian History of Pre-Revolution Ethiopia’. Proceedings of the Third Annual Seminar of the Department of History, Addis Ababa University, 1986.
‘Economic Origins of the Absolutist State in Ethiopia (1916-1935)’. Journal of Ethiopian Studies 17 (1984): 1–29.
Last updated: August 14, 2018