Interdisciplinary Workshop, October 9/10, 2008 Ruhr-University Bochum Boycott and Embargo. The Political Use of Economic Market- and Power Relations in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Hannah Ahlheim, Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt-University Berlin
Dr. des. Rüdiger Graf, Fakultät für Geschichtswissenschaften, Ruhr-University Bochum
Embargoes and Boycotts stand at the intersection of economic, political, social, and cultural history: throughout the 19th and 20th centuries they were increasingly used in order to achieve non-economic goals by economic means. Through intentional interruptions of supply or demand various actors sought to publicly emphasize and enforce their political and social demands or even to realize them. Above all, states used, and continue to use, embargoes in order to force other governments to change their political behavior. The consequences of embargoes, however, are not confined to limited numbers of actors in the political and the economic realms, but rather they affect the population as a whole in often unforeseeable ways. While the population is mostly seen as a passive victim of embargoes that may narrow economic opportunities in significant ways, boycotts are designed to empower the consumers and to give them a political voice. Daily consumptive decisions are transformed into political acts that are supposed to demonstrate the power of the consumers.
Scrutinizing heterogeneous examples of boycotts and embargoes from various national and international backgrounds, the aim of the workshop is to analyze the complex interplay of economic, social, and political motives, goals, and strategies that characterizes intentional stops of demand or supply. Therefore, on the one hand, there has to be a focus on the underlying power structures that constitute the basis of boycotts and embargoes and are transformed during these campaigns. On the other hand, the changing cultural and medial practices of transforming economic behavior into political power and political power into economic strategies need to be examined.
Since boycotts and embargoes have hitherto not been among the prime subjects of historiography, the workshop should deal with very basic questions concerning the use of economic power for non-economic purposes: to what extent is it possible to separate economic and non-economic or even genuinely political goals from each other? What are the characteristics of a “non-commercial” boycott and when do we talk of an embargo? Who are the participants in the campaigns and who has the opportunity to participate? What are the political, communicative, and medial conditions for boycotts and embargoes to take place? Under which economic, political and social conditions can they be successful? What are the criteria in order to define success and failure of boycotts, embargoes, and their unintentional consequences? What were the cultural practices of boycotts and embargoes in the 19th and 20th centuries? Can they be classified into different groups? To what extent did they change over time and were they interdependent?
At the interdisciplinary workshop the papers should address these questions by focusing on one specific boycott or embargo from the perspective of history, political science, economics, or law. Papers could deal with, but need not be confined to the following examples: the Chinese boycott against American products, the National Socialist anti-Jewish boycotts, the Indian boycott against British products, the Montgommery Bus Boycott, the COCOM High-Technology Embargo against the East, the U.S. actions against Cuba, oil- and raw-material embargoes, arms embargoes, moral purchasing, UN-embargoes against South Africa or Iraq, Olympia-Boycotts, etc.
We ask for short (1-2 pages) paper proposals to be sent by 29 February 2008 via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The participants will be notified by the end of March. The papers should be either in English or in German and finished by 15 September so that all participants have enough time to prepare for the discussions.
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