The League of Nations and its work on social issues

Call for Papers, deadline 30 January 2013

Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert (UNOG Library and Archives, Geneva); Magaly Rodríguez García (Vrije Universiteit Brussel); Elife Biçer-Deveci and Edith Siegenthaler (SNF-Project: "A Human Rights Turn in International Gender Politics in the Inter-War Period? Human Rights, Women's Movement and the League of Nations", Universität Bern) 31.10.2013-01.11.2013, Geneva
Deadline: 30.01.2013

In her review on the League of Nations' historiography, Susan Pedersen (2007) acknowledges not only an increased scholarly interest in this interwar international organisation, but also a shift in the research perspective. Whereas the (political) failure of the League was predominant in the post-war historiography, its (limited) contribution to peacekeeping and its role in managing relations of sovereignty and in dealing with social issues have become more visible in recent works. The planned symposium will focus on the League's efforts on social issues, which, in spite of the recent publications on international crime and human trafficking for prostitution, still deserve more scholarly attention. It also aims to go beyond the work of the League's Social Section and to analyse the organisation's global effort on social issues from three different perspectives: the League's work on social affairs; the League's internal work; and national implementation of the League's proposals. Hence papers dealing with the League's initiatives against sexual trafficking and for the promotion of child welfare, as well as its work around other social questions such as health, slavery, refugees and drug trade are welcome. Labour in general, being the competence of the powerful and quasi-independent International Labour Organization (ILO), will not be included in this symposium. However, related social issues (e.g. child or forced labour) that overlapped with the work of the ILO and were treated by various bodies within the League simultaneously may also be subjects to papers.

Researchers interested in participating in the symposium are requested to situate their proposals in one (or more) of the thematic sections listed below, and to send them to by no later than 31 December 2012. Proposals (in either French or English) should be approximately 400 words in length and should include a short biographical note of max. 200 words.

Section I: League's initiatives around social issues. This section will focus on the debates within and concrete activities of the Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women and Children, the Child Welfare Committee, the Health Organisation, the Advisory Committee on Opium and other Dangerous Drugs, the Slavery Commissions, and the Commission for Refugees. We welcome papers examining initiatives of these committees, such as information gathering through cooperation with national (state and non-state) partners, on-spot enquiries, and suggestions for resolutions and international conventions. The ideologies (humanitarianism, feminism, abolitionism, regulation, prohibitionism, nationalism, class, etc.), as well as the gender dynamics (different standpoints of male and female representatives) that shaped the debates and guided the actions of the various specialised agencies can be used as frameworks for the analyses.

Section II: Internal work of the League's specialised agencies. This "institutional section" will focus on the interaction, conflicts and alliances between officials, functionaries, governmental and non-governmental representatives, experts, lobbyists and journalists of the various specialised agencies and commissions, and on their relation with the League's main constitutional organs: the Assembly, the Council and the Permanent Secretariat. This section is intended to analyse the
(power) relations within the League of Nations both vertically and horizontally.

Section III: Global-local relationship. This section will deal with the implementation of the League's proposals on social issues in national and/or local settings. Further research in national and local archives is needed in order to understand the interplay between state and non-state actors in the shaping and implementation of, or opposition to, reforms proposed by supranational institutions. This section will focus on the developments in individual states, in order to gauge whether the Geneva-based organisation had an impact on national and local social policies (and vice-versa), and if so, to what extent.

Timing: 31 December 2012: Deadline paper proposals
1 February 2013: Letters of acceptance (or rejection) of paper proposals
1 September 2013: Deadline for papers 31 October - 1 November 2013: Symposium at the UNOG Library Events Room, Geneva

Funding: No travel and accommodation costs can be provided by the symposium organisers. Participants are requested to cover these costs by themselves. The organisers will provide refreshments during the breaks and a dinner for all speakers and commentators.

Magaly Rodriguez Garcia
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
mrodrigu [at]

[Cross-posted, with thanks, from H-Soz-u-Kult]