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Bonded Labor in the Cultural Contact Zone - Slavery and Its Discourses from Antiquity to the Present

by Annika Stello last modified 2008-09-11 07:15

Symposium hosted by the graduate school "Cultural Encounters and the Discourses of Scholarship", University of Rostock (Germany).

What Symposium
When 2008-09-18 18:00 to
2008-09-20 18:00
Where Rostock
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The Rostock graduate school "Cultural Encounters and the Discourses of Scholarship" will host an interdisciplinary symposium on the topic "Bonded Labor in the Cultural Contact Zone" as its contribution to the current commemoration of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago. This second Rostock symposium seeks to bring together experts from various disciplines and places around the globe whose work is concerned with the manifold forms that human slavery has taken throughout history. Guided by a critical evaluation of the present historiographical reassessments of the Atlantic slave trade and its continuing global repercussions, the symposium seeks to broaden the subject to include other experiences and representations of the exploitation of human labor, such as the Islamic and Mediterranean precursors of the Atlantic trade since antiquity; forms of human bondage in non-Western cultures; the deadly exploitation of human labor during the Nazi regime; or contemporary global trafficking in human bodies. Crucial issues to be addressed include the comparability of different forms of slavery; the complex and rhizomatic relationship between unfree labor and capitalist luxury, conspicuous consumption, and morality; the representations of human bondage in literature, art, museums, and film; and the ironies and ambivalences created by emancipation. We encourage our speakers to reflect on the relationship between slavery and cultural differences, as well as on the various scholarly discourses used at different times and by different disciplines and schools for describing cross-cultural human bondage: there is hardly an area of historical research which is ideologically more embattled than the history of slavery and the slave trade. Coming at the end of two years of commemoration, the symposium should also serve as a platform for assessing the present situation of the debate.


In bringing together scholars from various disciplines and countries, we invite the contributors to critically examine how their disciplines have produced their knowledges about human bondage, which concepts and theories they generated and which ideological sub-texts can be identified: which conflicting paradigms exist within scholarship on this subject, and which are the consequences of these conceptual ruptures and transformations for understanding such an important subject as slavery?

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