CfP: Forced Relocations: Conceptualizations, Cases and Data

Call for papers, deadline 31 December 2019

11–12 May 2020, Bonn

The renewed attention of the past decades for the many faces of coercion, in the form of slavery, serfdom and other forms of bondage, urges scholars to reconsider not only the divisions and comparisons, but also the connections and interactions between these forms. Various current initiatives are devoted to improving our understanding of different forms of coercion, either in the wider perspective in the form of strong asymmetrical dependencies (e.g. the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies) or in the form of coerced labour (e.g. the global labour history programme of the IISH).

This renewed perspective has shifted away from analysing slavery as an institution towards slaving as an historical practice. Scholarship focusing on the world outside the Atlantic has brought to light the various forms of slavery, as well as the sometimes extensive slave trade, in the Mediterranean, the Western Indian Ocean world, South- and Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. Besides the widespread occurrence of commodified slavery, and the impetus of the slave trade which fed into this, many new studies also underline the simultaneous existence and interaction with all kinds of non-commodified forms of bondage in many regions across the globe, most importantly corvée, caste- and debt-based slavery.

Scholarship has noted that slavery and slave trade were widespread throughout maritime Asia from the early modern period well into the nineteenth century (Reid 1983; Warren 1981 and 2010; Stanziani 2011 and 2017; Mann 2012). Recent estimates indicate that the Asian slave trade may have been almost as extensive as its Atlantic counterpart (Vink 2003; Allen 2010 and 2014; Van Rossum 2015; Bosma 2019).
As yet however, much less attention has been devoted to the role of slave trade and wider forms of forced relocations in extreme asymmetrical (labour) dependencies outside the Atlantic, especially (East) Africa, South- and Southeast Asia, East and Central Asia.

This workshop foregrounds the question of how to deal with forced relocations, acknowledging slave trade as only one of its many historical manifestations – that ranged from commodified trade in enslaved people to the different forms of exchange of bonded people, including tribute, abduction, kidnapping, repopulation, warfare and other kind of forced movements.

It aims to understand the conceptualization of forced relocations, especially with the intention i) to explore the role of different forms of forced relocations in different regimes of coercive asymmetrical (labour) dependencies, and ii) to discuss the possibilities to design data structures that most effectively allow for mapping and documenting slave trade and other forms of forced relation outside the Atlantic, especially (East) Africa, South- and Southeast Asia, East and Central Asia.

The workshop is part of the project Exploring Slave Trade in Asia- a collaboration that aims to create the basis for a slave trade database initiative by a) collecting and curating existing datasets, b) identifying source material for future data creation, and c) creating an initial data infrastructure for a collaborative database documenting slave trade and forced relocations in Asia, from the Indian Ocean and Indonesian archipelago worlds, to the South China seas and East and Central Asia.

To further facilitate the progress of the database project, as well as the discussion on the conceptualization of forced relocations, we are looking for discussion papers that address either key concepts and concerns that enable and help the creation of such a global database, including the availability and suitability of data, or case studies that allow the conceptualization and comparison of these forced relocations.
We therefore invite contributions that explore the phenomenon of forced relocation by one (or multiple) of the following angles:

  • Conceptualizing forms of forced relocations;
  • Studying historical case studies of forced relocations in comparative ways;
  • Studying or conceptualizing the relation between (forms of) forced relocation and regimes of coerced labour or extreme asymmetrical dependencies;
  • Exploring and analysing sources for data creation on forced relocations;
  • Reflecting on the implications of any of these topics on conceptualizing and creating a suitable data infrastructure.

Reactions can be sent to until 31 December 2019.
Abstracts (roughly 200 words) should describe the proposed paper (including topic, method, possible sources and data).
The expert workshop will take place on 11 and 12 May 2020, at the Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies in Bonn (

The project Exploring Slave Trade in Asia is a collaboration by the International Institute of Social History, Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, Linnaeus University and ENS Lyon. More information: