Colonialism, Slavery, and Local Histories in Early Modern Asia
The academic network ESTA (Exploring Slave Trade in Asia), of which Concurrences is a member, held a conference in Växjö on 15-16 September, on the theme Colonialism, Slavery, and Local Histories in Early Modern Asia.
The history of slavery and coerced labour in Asia has engendered much interest in the last few decades. While most of the scholarly attention has focused on the Atlantic slave trade and slave regimes in the Americas, recent research has revealed widespread and interconnected slaving practices up to relatively modern time – in a sense up to the present.
The aim of the conference was to bring together scholars working on early modern (local) histories of colonialism, slavery, and slave trade, including related forms of forced labour and relocation in Asia and the wider Indian Ocean region, from the Cape to Manchuria. The contributions addressed these themes from a (structured) data perspective, as presentations of ongoing research projects, and as regional cases. During two intensive days, eighteen papers and two oral presentations were discussed, spanning a wide geographical area including the Indian Ocean, India, Southeast Asia, China, Siberia, and the Pacific Ocean. Of the many intriguing questions that were brought up, many concerned how slavery is conceptualized to make it a useful analytic category, how different slavery regimes compare with each other, and how new databases might clarify the dynamics of slave trade. The contributions amply demonstrated how a wealth of new data can be obtained through digital techniques and a new critical reading of the mostly Western archival sources. The conference was generously funded by the Crafoord, Åke Wiberg, and Magnus Bergvall foundations, as well as the Department of Humanities at Linnaeus University and Concurrences. Plans are underway to publish a selection of the papers in an edited volume.