4 April 2014

Projet « Travail libre/Travail forcé : contraintes locales et dynamiques globales. Afrique, Europe, Asie, du XVe siècle à nos jours »

This project studies the relationships between coercion and labour on the long run, from the 15th century to present days, in many different places in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

We explore new analysis on the tensions between free and unfree labour and rely upon research, education and teaching for constant dialogue with national and international organisations dealing with these topics. Participants of our projects are area studies specialists, economists, sociologists, demographers, ILO and NGOs. Together, we aim at reaching a comprehensive, global understanding of forced labour and suggest appropriate policies to adopt.

The first underlying hypothesis of this project is that so-called “free” forms of labour and bondage were defined and practised in reference to each other. Forms of bondage and freedom were mutually defined, not only in each country and area, but also on a global scale. Labour dynamics in Africa cannot be fully understood without their interactions with the Indian Ocean, Asian, and European worlds. This approach is radically new: until now, there has been little dialogue between historians of slavery and historians of wage labour, and consequently, neither group has challenged the presupposition that these two worlds were and remain separate or even opposed. The aim of this project is precisely to overcome this fracture by revealing the connections between these elements underpinned by chronology that are in fact too common to be unconnected or to have come about merely by chance.

The second hypothesis of our project is that we take into account at the same time global and world histories approaches (Braudel, Wallerstein) and the specificities of area studies. We consider that local values and institutions do not disappear into a global mould, but that quite the opposite, these dimensions influence each other. We do not trace the backward history of globalisation but we stress the multiple interactions and multiple scales in time and space.

Research Axes

  1. Definition : the uncertain boundary between free and unfree labour, local knowledge and global dynamics.
  2. Slave trade, migrations and labour mobility.
  3. Labour, capital and gender.
  4. Origins and forms of bondage : debt, war and markets.
  5. Institutions, resistance and voice.


Our group is made of senior and younger scholars, students and post-docs from several fields: history, anthropology, law, economics, sociology, demography. We have specialists of Africa, Asia, Europe. We defend interdisciplinarity and the identification of a dominant field of interest.

Coordinator : Alessandro Stanziani, EHESS and CNRS

  • UMR 8171 Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF, ex Cemaf et ex CEAF), Université Paris 1, EPHE, IRD, Université de Aix/Marseille, EHESS, CNRS)
  • Institut de recherches juridiques de la Sorbonne (IRJS), en particulier : Département de droit social ; Département des relations privées internationales (DERPI).
  • UMR 8558, Centre de recherches historiques (CRH), EHESS, CNRS
  • UMR 8564, Centre d’études sur l’Inde et l’Asie du Sud-Est (CeIAS), EHESS, CNRS
  • UMR 8533, Institutions et dynamiques historiques de l’économie (IDHE). Paris 1, Paris 8, Paris 10, ENS-Cachan, CNRS
  • UMR 8545, Paris-Jourdan Sciences Économiques.
  • UMR IHMC n° 8066, CNRS, Paris 1, ENS
  • UMR 8083, Centre d’études des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (Cercec), EHESS, CNRS
  • UMR 8173, Centre Chine, Corée, Japon. EHESS, CNRS, UPD Paris 7.
  • Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine (Cemcec).
  • UMR 8131, Centre G. Simmel. EHESS, CNRS
  • UMR 201 IEDES. Paris 1, IRD
  • INED Unité 11 Histoire et populations ; Unité 8 Migrations internationales et minorités ; Unité 12.
  • ILO Delhi
  • Sampark (ONG, Women and poverty, India)
  • CLRA (Center for labour research and action in India) –protection des immigrants et travailleurs temporaires-
  • OIT, Genève
  • Chaire “Etat social et mondialisation : analyse juridique des solidarités”, Collège de France (Titulaire de la Chaire : Professeur Alain Supiot).

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Categories > Programme NExT, Research

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