Local Forms of Production

CFP: a workshop in Amsterdam, June 2010

Call for papers: Local forms of production as resistance against global domination: anti-commodities - An international workshop, Amsterdam, June 17-19 2010

Colonial commodity production for the world market has created and reshaped peripheral economies, a process that continued after formal decolonisation. There is a rich historiography on colonial and post-colonial commodity production, most of which is related to agricultural production. These studies almost invariably start from the assumption that colonial (and post-colonial) commodity production subordinates non-commercial local forms of production, exploiting local people's labour. The peasantry is expelled from its land and local creativity and indigenous knowledge are suppressed. [Adas, M., Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1989. Kloppenburg, J.R., First the seed: the political economy of plant biotechnology 1492-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Scott, J., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.]

More recently, historians have argued that studies of the technological transfers and coercive regimes of colonizing nations too often result in asymmetrical accounts that portray colonized peoples merely as victims and underrate their creative potential and social resilience. They argue that the social-technical arrangements of colonial production systems were a result of dynamic local and regional interactions, as well as social conflicts. This would imply that there is an immense variation in the ways in which local production systems and colonial commodity production coexist. [Arnold, D., "Europe, Technology and Colonialism" History and Technology 21 (2005): 85-106. Edgerton, David., "Creole technologies and global histories: rethinking how things travel in space and time" History of Science and Technology 1 (2007): 75-112. Roberts, R.L., Two Worlds of Cotton. Colonialism and the Regional Economy in the French Soudan, 1800-1946. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. Storey, W. K., Science and Power in Colonial Mauritius. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1997.]

The aim of this workshop is to focus on responses to global commodity production both in terms of resisting or adapting to changing social (labour) relations as well as resisting or adapting to worsening ecological conditions. These processes, termed 'anti-commodity', resulted in local and regional reconfigurations of people and their activities. These reconfigurations are considered as local forms of resistance and/or adaptation against the extraction of surplus value by colonial (plantation) agriculture or mining.

The workshop, hosted and organised by the International Institute of social History in Amsterdam (IISH, NL) in collaboration with the Technology and Agrarian Development Group of Wageningen University (NL), is the 4th international workshop of the Commodities of Empire collaborative project, [url]http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/ferguson-centre/commodities-of-empire[/url], run by the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, Open University (UK) and the School of Advanced Study, University of London (UK). The IISH has a long tradition in studying the global history of labour relations and one of its current research projects is on commodity production in Asia. The Technology and Agrarian Development group has a strong focus on the interaction between material and social change and currently runs a Dutch Science Foundation-funded research programme on anticommodities in collaboration with the UK partners. The Commodities of Empire Project seeks to explore the networks through which such commodities circulated within, and in the spaces between, empires. It encourages a comparative approach that explores the experiences of peoples subjected to different imperial hegemonies. Invited are papers that address resistance against the introduction of commodity for the world market in the contexts of changing labour and/or ecological change.

The deadline for abstracts (about 800-1000 words) is January 15, and should be sent to Ulbe Bosma, [mailto]ubo@iisg.nl[/mailto], and Harro Maat, [mailto]Harro.Maat@wur.nl[/mailto]. The organizers will then invite participation in the workshop based on a selection made of those papers that fit most closely the workshop's aims. The organizers will offer local hospitality during the workshop to those selected. There is very limited funding available for travel, for which priority will be given to scholars from outside Europe and the USA.

Participants are expected to have full papers ready by May 31, for precirculation to session discussants and other participants.

If you have any questions or hesitate about how your work fits the workshop theme, feel free to contact the organizers, preferably before the abstract deadline.