Special Issue International Review of Social History (2012)
Mediating Labour: Exploring the Indirect Recruitment of Workers Across the World
Editors: Ulbe Bosma, Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk and Aditya Sarkar
Call for Papers
Throughout history, in all parts of the world, workers have been attracted, lured, tricked or even forced into entering specific forms of work or labour relations. Employers may do this themselves, or make use of mediators, ranging from free job agencies, (sub)contractors and jobbers, to traffickers of human beings. This special issue of the International Review of Social History (IRSH) focuses on labour intermediaries, persons or agencies who interceded between employers and workers, for which they received payments and commissions. Their practices played a crucial role in the recruitment of both free and forced labour. In labour historiography, labour mediators constitute an intriguing category, because of their often indistinct intermediate form between labour and capital. The IRSH invites scholars from all over the world to submit abstracts for papers dealing with the history of the intermediary recruitment of labourers in any part of the world, in any type of work. The central question for this collection of papers will be how we can explain the emergence and abandonment of indirect labour recruitment practices.
Historically, recruitment practices have had typically trans-local consequences, changing the social landscapes of migration-generating and migrant-receiving regions. Obvious examples are the millions of African slaves who have been traded across the continent and to the Americas and Asia, at the same time altering both the sending and receiving societies to a great extent, as well as the indentured (‘coolie’) workers sent all over the world. Less explicitly, various forms of contract labour across history have witnessed a blurring of the lines between ‘freedom’ and ‘coercion’ in the employment contract, and it would be interesting to explore how labour intermediaries realized and mobilized this indistinctness. Moreover, changes in labour recruitment could also affect the age and gender structure of the work force. For instance, in proto- and early industrializing regions, it was often customary for subcontractors or recruiters to draw an increasing share of women and children into the labour market – a trend manifested until the present day, with women and children filling specific niches of the economy.
This special issue of IRSH aims to explain the emergence – as well as the (periodic) abandoning – of practices of indirect labour recruitment. In order to establish this, several other questions come to mind. Under what conditions did job intermediaries around the world and throughout history operate? What similarities and differences can be found in labour recruitment practices and methods regionally and between professions? What role did economic factors (e.g. transaction and information costs, scarcity of labour) play? To what extent did cultural factors and colonial discourses about traditional labour recruitment patterns play a role in the use of labour intermediaries? What does a focus on indirect labour recruitment contribute to our knowledge of the tenuous and shifting lines of division between ‘free’ and ‘coerced’ labour, as these came to be constituted historically across a range of local and global contexts? What role did gender, ethnicity and age play in the particular practices of labour recruitment around the world?
Special attention will be paid to those people and institutions involved in labour recruitment as their profession: job agencies, labour exchanges, labour contractors and subcontractors, jobbers, army recruiters, pimps, et cetera.
Because of our ambition to offer a broad geographical and temporal perspective, articles with a comparative approach, either geographically and/or chronologically, will have our preference.
The deadline for sending proposals, including brief outlines of the articles, is 1 February 2011. Please send your proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org, including your affiliation, and email and postal addresses.
1 February 2011: Deadline for proposals, including brief outlines of articles by authors March 2011: Letters of acceptance (or rejection) of proposals 1 September 2011: Deadline for first draft of articles November 2011: Letter from the editors to authors about any necessary revisions 1 January 2012: Second draft of articles April 2012: Final version of manuscript to copy editor December 2012: Publication of Special Issue
For more information, please contact Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk (email@example.com)
Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk
International Institute of Social History
P.O. Box 2169
1000 CD Amsterda,
+ 31 20 6685866 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.iisg.nl/irsh/
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