CfP: Reproductive Labour and Unfree Labour (session at the III ELHN Conference)

Call for Papers, deadline 15 September 2018

Joint session of the Working Groups Free/Unfree Labour and Feminist Labour History
Third ELHN Conference, Amsterdam 2019
Deadline: September 15, 2018.

Reproductive labour and unfree labour: rethinking free labour and its others

Feminist historians and historians of unfree labour have long been sharing the interest in expanding the scope of labour history and exploring the relationship between different forms of labour. For feminist labour history, inquiry into the role of reproductive/subsistence labour for sustaining free labour, the relationship between these two types of labour in producing value and sustaining economic development, and the question of how individuals and communities have combined these two types of labour has been of key importance. Historians of unfree labour similarly have been interested in how to conceptualize the relationship between unfree and free labour, and its historical role in and contribution to capitalist development.

Investigating the nexus between reproductive/subsistence labour and unfree labour has not been at the center neither of feminist labour history nor of the historicial study of free and unfree labour. In studies that do address this nexus the focus has been on colonial settings, where agrarian subsistence communities were coerced into labour for the colonial state, and on slave societies.

By contrast, little research has been done on themes such as the gender division in reproductive labour in contexts of coerced labour (including its driving forces and consequences), or workers’ agency as developing in their struggles around the triangle of free, unfree, and reproductive/subsistence labour.

Furthermore, the conceptual debates and advances in feminist labour history and the history of free/unfree labour have largely developed in isolation from each other. For instance, there is little discussion on how concepts and findings evolving around the contribution of reproductive/subsistence labour or unfree labour to capitalist development relate to each other, or on how together they can contribute to more inclusive histories of capitalism.

In this panel, we call for papers which:

  • Address the relationship between reproductive/subsistence labour and unfree labour, situating themwithin the global history of capitalism;
  • Discuss concrete historical exampleswhich are useful toconnect debates and knowledge on the relationship between reproductive/subsistence labour and free labour, on the one hand, and unfree and free labour, on the other;
  • Develop and exemplify,based in research in any field in labour history, creative and innovative ideas about how and why to do historical research on the triangle of reproductive/subsistence labour, unfree labour, and free labour.

Please send a 500-word abstract and a short academic CV (max 500 word) to and

The proposal should include name, surname, current affiliation and contact details of the proponent.