Call for Papers: “Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery”

Call for Papers

“Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery”

An International Conference to be Hosted by Leiden University, The Netherlands

1-2 June 2015

It is with great pleasure that we extend to historians and other scholars of global slavery an invitation to participate in an upcoming conference entitled “Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery,” to be held in June 2015 by the Institute for History at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Leiden houses the top-ranked humanities faculty in continental Europe and has recently attracted a number of energetic younger scholars who are producing top research on the history of slavery.  The organizers’ work has appeared in monographs with Cambridge UP and other academic presses, and in journals such as Slavery and Abolition, Past & Present, and Journal of Medieval History, amongst others. They have recently launched a new book series entitled “Studies in Global Slavery,” to be published by Brill ( beginning in 2015.

  1. The Conference Theme

Why have certain groups of people been enslaved throughout history and not others?  How have shifting ideologies and group identities impacted and/or informed the nature of slavery and post-slavery in various world societies?  How have these ideologies and identities interacted with institutions and political realities in order to produce the map of global slavery as we have it?  Drawing from J. Fynn-Paul’s theoretical concept of ‘slaving zones,’ we invite prospective participants to reflect on how this concept might gel with their own work.

  1. The Theory

What are slaving zones, and how is the theory useful? The basic tents of the ‘slaving zone’ theory are as follows:

1)  That political organization protects people from being targeted as slaves, while political disorganization can have the opposite effect.

2)  Many societies had geographical areas which were ‘slaving zones,’ i.e., places from which slaves could be captured or purchased.

3)  Many societies created ‘no-slaving zones’ which were (theoretically) off limits to slaving.

4)  Non-monotheistic societies had more permeable ‘no-slaving zones,’ while monotheistic societies tended to create more absolute bans on the enslavement of co-religionists.  Thus, religious boundaries also acted to create slaving zone boundaries.

5)  Slaving zones can represent fractures within a given society.  For example, some ‘classes’ of people, such as criminals, or the poor, or people of a certain race, creed, or ethnicity might be legitimate slave targets, while others are off limits.

6)  Thus, identity and ideology play key roles in determining the actual boundaries of slaving zones, often just as much or more than political and economic organization.

Participants are invited to use their work as a case study or else they might choose to write a more theoretical paper, reflecting on how the paradigm of ‘slaving zones’ may or may not work, on various levels, with the aspects of slavery with which they are most familiar.  They are welcome to be critical of the concept, or to apply it in creative ways. Subthemes that conference papers might address include (but are not limited to):

–the development over time of broad ideologies and group identities that justified and determined who could be enslaved and who could not;

–the (de-)commodification of slave bodies (i.e., the relegation of slaves to subhuman status and market commodities, and the redefinition of ex-slave bodies after abolition);

–the causes of forced slave migration and border crossings (within and between slave societies, but also from slave to free territories), and their effect on slaving zone ideologies and cultural identities;

–the development over time of slave and non-slave identities, including after manumission or emancipation, with specific consideration for the fluidity of such identities (for example “black”, “colored”, and “white” identities in the Atlantic world);

–slave agency: the boundaries and opportunities in bondpeople’s attempts to redefine their bodies, identities, and status over time, or utilize the geography of slavery and freedom to their advantage (for example cultural practices that reclaimed slaves’ humanity, slave flight to free territories in an attempt to claim free status, intermarriage between free and slave, self-purchase, negotiations and legal proceedings for manumission, etc);

–the development, successes and failures of abolitionism and antislavery in relevant world societies, and the effects that these movements had on slaving zone ideologies;

–and the creation of legal and political frameworks that permitted, sustained, and/or abolished slavery and slave trades (for example early Atlantic laws that determined that slave status derived from the mother, that reduced slaves to subhuman status, that protected slaveholders’ property rights, or that granted slaves free and/or citizenship status).

III. Submission

Interested participants are asked to submit abstracts of 250-500 words to Damian Pargas: The deadline for submissions is 1 December 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Jeff Fynn-Paul, Damian Pargas, and Karwan Fatah-Black

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