Summer School and Symposium: SERVICE – SERVILITY – SERVITUDE, 4 – 8 December, 2023, at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Labour history has long been framed through the ‘free/unfree’ divide. Moreover, slavery as well as wage labour, indentured work and convict labour, as well as other labour relations, have traditionally been studied in isolation from each other. In the last decades, however, labour historians have highlighted the need to move beyond the ‘free/unfree’ divide (van der Linden and Brass, 1997; van der Linden 2008), expanded the range of labour relations under study, and insisted on the relevance of a processual perspective (De Vito, Schiel and van Rossum, 2020; Schiel and Heinsen, forthcoming). Especially the latter approach highlights the complex making of labour coercion, and offers the possibility to rethink key concepts, e.g. the ‘working class’, and periodisations in labour history.

Building on these new insights, the two events foreground the potential of the concepts of ‘service’, ‘servility’ and ‘servitude’ to provide further entry points into this expanded labour history. At the same time, it seeks to uncover the historical importance of service and servile forms of labour that have been marginalized through discourses that focus on ‘free/ unfree’ labour, or have been addressed within isolated fields of research.

We think of labour regimes as diverse as family labour or domestic service, we look at shopworkers sharing work-spaces as well as close social ties in an Asian ‘bazaar’, we address inmates who worked in private households, or doing service as a punishment for certain crimes, workers in ‘informal’ backyard manufacturing units, farm hands living on the margins of agricultural households, or tributary and enslaved workers tied to service provision within the relationship to their ‘employers’ or polity. The triad of ‘service – servility – servitude’ operates as a structuring element particularly for types of work marked by high socio-spatial proximity with capital, one that provides an alternative facet for the inquiry into labour relations and enriches our understanding of the complexities of labour coercion. Thus, we are not only expanding the scope of current discourses on labour, but also the theoretical – more often than not binary – framework often applied. Using the triad ‘service – servility – servitude’ opens up new perspectives in the study of labour, and will consider overlooked histories.

Organizers

Sebastian Schwecke, Max Weber Forum for South Asian Studies, Delhi, India

Paulo Cruz Terra, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói-Brazil

Michaela Dimmers, Max Weber Forum for South Asian Studies, Delhi, India and Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Göttingen, Germany 

Christian G. De Vito, University of Vienna, Austria

Nitin Varma, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany



Cite this blog post
mwfdelhi (2023, November 22). Summer School and Symposium: SERVICE – SERVILITY – SERVITUDE, 4 – 8 December, 2023, at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Max Weber Forum for South Asian Studies (MWF Delhi). Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/rptm

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