Regulating domestic service in colonial societies – report on the European Social Science History conference, 2018

 

In April Claire Lowrie attended the European Social Science History conference in Belfast as part of a panel on regulating domestic service in colonial societies. https://esshc.socialhistory.org/esshc-belfast-2018

Claire presented a paper on violent crimes committed by Chinese male servants in Singapore in the 1910s and 1920s. Shireen Ally gave a paper on regulating race and maternity in relation to African domestic servants in South Africa. Nitin Sinha explored how the regulation of bazaars in Calcutta in the eighteenth century impacted on Indian domestic servants. Nitin Varma discussed the failed attempts to introduce law regulating domestic service in India during the nineteenth century.

The panel was followed by a roundtable discussion with Victoria Haskins, Raffaella Sarti and Samita Sen on the concept of regulating domestic work in historical and contemporary contexts, and, in colonial and non-colonial contexts. One theme that emerged from the discussion was that while today the International Labour Organisation pressures states to regulate paid domestic work in order to protect the rights of workers, colonial era regulation often centred upon limiting the rights and personal freedoms of domestic workers.

The panel and the roundtable was organised by Nitin Sinha and Nitin Varma of as part of their European Research Council project called Servants Past. https://servantspasts.wordpress.com

 

 

Reflections on Colonial Formations

Adam J. Barker shares his thoughts on the first Colonial and Settler Studies Network conference, Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions, held at the University of Wollongong in November 2016. You can follow Adam on Twitter: @adamoutside.


What is a ‘colonial formation’ and why should such a thing matter? The answers, it turns out, are ‘many different things’ and ‘because without understanding colonial formations, we cannot understand the shape of contemporary life’.

That lesson was brought home to me during the conference titled ‘Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions’, hosted by the University of Wollongong in Australia, in November 2016. This conference was a intended as an opportunity to explore the intersections and divergences between a variety of state polices, individual actions, and community developments that can be described as ‘colonial’. More than that, the conference cast a wide net, crossing all continents and encompassing several centuries, and considering concepts such as slavery and indentured labour, carcerality and prison colonies, identity and place-relationships, the role of landscape in either inscribing or resisting colonial power, and – of course – the internecine conflicts between scholars over the meanings of any and all of these terms. While that may sound like an unlikely mix of interests, approaches, and personal entanglements, what emerged was an exceptionally rich intellectual discourse that also made us laugh and cry, and intense interpersonal interactions that were as enlightening as any course of study could be.

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