CONFERENCE. Empire, Labour, Citizenship. Current research on Globalization.


Brussels, 18-20 November 2015

Since the second half of the 19th century, accelerations in the processes of globalization profoundly transformed human communities throughout the world.

This event aims at highlighting current research in human sciences around concepts of empire, labour and citizenship and their connections with the long-term history of mankind. During three days, researchers in history, anthropology and political sciences are invited to reflect together on how political superstructures, workforce management and the making of collective identities contributed to shape today’s globalized societies.

The conference will be closed by a lecture of Pr. Frederick Cooper (New York University), a leading scholar in the History of (post)colonial Africa, and a major contributor to academic debates on these topics.

Day 1. 18 November.

Venue: Vrije Universiteit Brussel, room to be confirmed.

12h-13h. Welcoming and registration.

13h-13h15. Welcome speech: Benoît Henriet (PhD candidate, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles), Romain Tiquet (PhD Candidate – Humboldt University – Berlin).

Panel 1. Empires and the making of global societies.

Discussant/chair : Pr. Kenneth Bertrams (Université Libre de Bruxelles).

13h15-14h45 KEYNOTE : Pr. Eric Vanhaute (Ghent University): ‘Frontiers of Empire. About Land, Labour and Commodities’.

14h45-15h. Coffee break.

15h-15h30. Pr. Paul Fontaine (Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles) : ‘De Lyon à Rome – Africains et Syriens en Europe de l’Ouest sous l’Empire romain’.

15h30-16h. Fabienne Chamelot (PhD candidate – University of Portsmouth) – Romain Tiquet (PhD Candidate – Humboldt University – Berlin) : ‘Layers of Colonial Archives, Levels of Imperial Rule: Administrative Tensions between the Federal and the Local Power in AOF, 1936-1939’.

16h-16h30 Clothilde Houot (PhD Candidate – Université Paris 1-Sorbonne): ‘Building National Armies in the Middle Eastern Mandates. The Iraqi and Transjordanian Case’.

16h30-17h. Zaib Un Nisa Aziz (Teaching Fellow. Lahore University of Management Sciences): Passages from India. India anti colonial activism in exile, 1905-1920.

17h-17h30. Concluding remarks and final round of questions.

Day 2. 19 November.

Venue: Université Libre de Bruxelles, local AW.1.121.

8h30-9h30. Welcoming and registration.

Panel 2. The African experience of Labour.

Discussant/Chair: Pr. Benjamin Rubbers (Université de Liège – Université Libre de Bruxelles).

9h30-11h00. KEYNOTE : Dr. Sara Geenen (Antwerp University) : “Artisanal frontier mining of gold In Africa: Labour transformation in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo”.

11h-11h15. Coffee break

11h15-11h45. Pascaline Le Polain (PhD candidate, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles): Punishing the Resisters. Forced Agricultural Labour in Belgian Congo (1940-1945).

11h45-12h15. Adane Kassie Bezabih (PhD Candidate, Addis Ababa University): African Labour and Foreign Capital: The Case of Wonji-Shewa Sugar Estate in Ethiopia, 1951-1974.

12h-15-12h45: Kerstin Stubenvoll (PhD Candidate, Humboldt University – Berlin): ‘Applied sciences’: (Mis)readings and Scopes of Action in Constructing ‘the African Worker’ during decolonization (French Cameroon, 1940s-50s).

12h45-13h15: Benoît Henriet (PhD candidate, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles): ‘Deglobalizing the postcolony? The Changing Faces of Palm oil labour around Kikwit (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 1911-2015’.

12h45-13h45. Lunch break

Panel 3. Citizenship in a (post)colonial world.

Discussant / chair : Pr. Amandine Lauro (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

13h45-15h15. KEYNOTE : Pr. Emma Hunter (University of Edinburgh) : ‘Citizenship in Post-Colonial Africa: Dialogues between Past and Present’.

15h15-15h30. Coffee Break.

15h30-16h. Edenz Maurice (PhD candidate, Centre d’Histoire – Sciences Po Paris): ‘Amerindians, Creoles and Maroons. Schools as laboratories of (post-)colonial citizenship in French Guiana, 1930s to 1960s ‘.

16h-16h30. Marie Fierens (Postdoctoral Fellow – Université Libre de Bruxelles) – Ornella Rovetta (Postdoctoral Fellow – Université Libre de Bruxelles) : ‘Citizenship at a Crossroads: Transitions and Elites in Congo and Rwanda c.1950-1962’.

16h30-17h. Alexander Knoth (PhD candidate, University of Potsdam): ‘The Social Construction of the Citizen. Patterns of political membership and belonging in the EU (1945-2011)’.

17h-17h30. Sarah Demart (Researcher, Université de Liège): ‘Postcolonial citizenship in Belgium: the case of the Belgian-Congolese in the era of globalisation’.

17h30-18h. Concluding remarks and final round of questions.

Day 3. 20 November.

Venue: Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles, local P-61

9h-9h45. Welcoming and registration.

9h45-10h: Welcome speech: Pr. Nathalie Tousignant (Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles).

10h-12h. Keynote Pr. Frederick Cooper (New York University) : “Empire and Beyond: Power and the State in the 20th Century”.

Discussants : Pr. Nathalie Tousignant (Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles), Pr. Emma Hunter (University of Edinburgh), Pr. Véronique Dimier (Université Libre de Bruxelles).

12h-13h. Lunch Break.

13h-14h30. Concluding roundtable : with Pr. Frederick Cooper, Pr. Véronique Dimier, Pr. Nathalie Tousignant, Pr. Emma Hunter.

More information here

cfp: Re-imagining ends of empire

The study of the ends of empires and decolonisation has generally focused on the passage from empire to nation-states. Whether this process was violent or relatively peaceful, it has generally been presented as historically inevitable. This is particularly the case with France’s African empire which is often studied in terms of its attempt and failure to hold on at all costs before ultimately giving up (Algeria) or its ‘successful’ negotiation of a smooth transfer of power to a Westernised African elite (West Africa). As Todd Shepard underlined in 2006 in The Invention of Decolonisation, by 1959-60, decolonisation in France was presented as part of the “tide of history” with little explanation or discussion of what this actually meant. He underlines that this historical determinism has largely been reproduced in academic literature. At the same time, an emerging trend has been to re-examine established accounts of the passage of empires to nation-states (Cooper, 2014; Hansen and Jonsson, 2014; Deighton, 2006). With an increase in studies of global and transnational history, scholars are increasingly questioning the inevitability of how (post) empire was reimagined by the late colonial state.

This study day at the University of Portsmouth on March 2nd 2016 aims to expand on these new approaches to studying the ends of empire. It seeks to bring together scholars who are currently working on or are interested in re-examining the avenues that colonial powers (such as Britain, France, Portugal and Belgium) considered in Africa and Asia at the end of the colonial period, including those paths not taken. Researchers, particularly postgraduate and post-doctoral, from different disciplines are invited to submit proposals, in English, dealing with the different ways in which ends of empire were imagined. Papers with a comparative and/or connected dimension are particularly welcome and may be based on (but are not restricted to) the following topics:

  • Differing understandings of meanings of decolonisation
  • Late colonial projects and state building
  • Alternatives to the nation-state model in a post-colonial context
  • Reassessments of concepts and practices of ‘neo-colonialism’ (for example ‘Françafrique’, ‘Eurafrique’ etc.)
  • The role of colonial and ‘on the ground’ actors and the international context

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to:

Kelsey Suggitt –

Final deadline for abstract submissions – Friday 11th December 2015