International Conference at the University of Antwerp, Centre for Urban History
19-20 February 2015
The hidden abodes of production
Labour, commodities and repertoires of evaluation in the European Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Bert De Munck (Centre for Urban History, University of Antwerp)
Philippe Minard (Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de l'Economie et de la Société", Université Paris 8/CNRS, et CRH-EHESS)
Jelle Versieren (Centre for Urban History, University of Antwerp)
With a key note lecture of Richard Biernacki (UC San Diego), the author of The Fabrication of Labor: Germany and Britain 1640-1914 (University of California, 1995)
Research and debate on workers’ alienation and estrangement during the industrial revolutions has in its heydays in the 1970s and 1980s predominantly focused on technological, organizational and managerial transformations. From a Marxist point of view, the loss of control over the means of production and the division of labour remained the fulcrum around which alienation could be explained in a setting of disciplinary practises and deskilling processes. Harry Braverman drew on his long experiences as a factory worker to explain the long-term tendency of homogenisation of labour in the execution of industrial production. His work Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) caused heated debates among labour historians, political economists and sociologists.
Subsequently, discussions during the ‘cultural turn’ have helped to appreciate the importance and relative autonomy of perceptions of and discourses on labour - whether from outside or from the workers themselves. E.P. Thompson brought the workers’ agency in the production process to light, and emphasized the importance of extra-economic elements in the transformation of concrete labour into labour power – i.e., moral conventions, social status, community ties. Nonetheless, theoretical debates on alienation and commodity fetishism notwithstanding, historians have refrained from examining the practical and at the same time imagined and discursive connections which artisans and workers forged with raw material and the products of their labour. How did the relationship of artisans and workers with their materials and products change during periods of economic transformation?
The organisers of this conference intend to enter that terra incognita by studying the importance of cultural practices and repertoires of evaluation in material processes of production and the construction of product value. To that end, labour will be related to every day practices on the shop floor, political discourses on labour skills and product values, the changing conditions of the workplace, and changing relations, practices and sources of power.
This conference attempts to adopt a comparative angle between European regions. Doing so, this angle can promote further de-limitations of heterodox, integrative approaches.
The University of Antwerp’s Centre for Urban History invites researchers to submit paper proposals on topics related to:
a. the perception of labour skills and the assessment and construction of product values;
b. the repertoires of evaluation concerning the relation between labour and the exchangeable commodity;
c. different forms of alienation and microphysical relations of power and conventions in the putting-out networks, manufactures and factories during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
d. continuities and changes in the political discourse on labour processes and institutional reforms.
Submission of proposals
Proposals for papers should include:
* Paper title
* Presenter's name, affiliation, and contact information
* Brief abstract (no more than 500 words)
Please send proposals to:
Jelle Versieren (email@example.com)
Subject: CFP Transformations of labour
Deadline for proposal submissions: 1 August 2014
University of Antwerp
Department of History
The Centre for Urban History City Campus S.D.330, Grote Kauwenberg 18, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
https://www.uantwerp.be/en/staff/jelle-versieren/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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