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March
11
2020

Interview with Jonathan Connolly

Posted by rdaily under Interview | Tags: labour, south africa, walter d. love | 0 Comments

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Jonathan Connolly is the recipient of the 2019 Walter D. Love Prize. Connolly’s winning article (for the best entry in British history) was “Indentured Labour Migration and the Meaning of Emancipation: Free Trade, Race, and Labour in British Public Debate, 1838-1860,” Past & Present 238 (February 2018).

In August 2020, he will take up his new position as assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


 How did you become interested in this topic?

Early on in graduate school, I began reading about indenture in the South African context, where I was interested broadly in processes of imperial expansion. Like many I think, I was struck by how quickly the indenture system took shape, so soon after abolition. An interest in origins led me to the southern Caribbean and then in particular to Mauritius. As I read more, I became increasingly concerned not only with what indenture ‘was,’ but with how it was represented. Many of my interests and nascent commitments as a historian involved the political culture of imperial rule—attempts to understand and rationalize power. So my earliest question, the question that eventually led to this article, was ‘why did indenture become less controversial over time?’ By extension, ‘how was indenture rationalized, alongside Britain’s commitment to antislavery?’ And, ‘what might debate on indenture tell us about the concept of “emancipation” and what it did and didn’t mean?’

Did you make any particularly important archival findings? Was there a moment when you felt like you had achieved a breakthrough in your research? 

I relied mainly on newspapers and other public representations for this project, and many of the individual articles I read are fascinating in their own right, rhetorically and politically. But if there was a sense of ‘breakthrough,’ it came through the gradual realization of a longer-term pattern of change. Seeing the dramatic transformation in the Times’ position on indenture for example, over the course of twenty-odd years. That pattern made many individual claims all the more striking. Meanwhile, teaching also played a significant role. In the midst of the project, I taught a small seminar on antislavery and abolition. Rereading canonical antislavery texts (with students encountering them for the first time, no less) helped emphasize how later representations of indenture subverted antislavery ideals, often radically.

Does your project engage other disciplines? If so, which ones, and how?

I certainly hope so. My earlier training in comparative literature played a role in generating the project and in the close reading of political language more generally. One of the article’s key themes is discursive normalization, which is I think of interest broadly in cultural studies, but also potentially in the social sciences, especially historical sociology. And certainly the article takes inspiration from an interdisciplinary methodological tradition traceable back at least to Said: that is, the use of interpretive methods to uncover how, historically, particular modes of thought have helped justify and enable particular relations of power.

Does your project have any particular relevance to the contemporary—political, social, cultural, etc.?

In large part, the project was an attempt to understand how indenture, in spite of its severities, came to be seen as a natural part of the modern world. If scholarly work on humanitarianism often foregrounds moments of recognition, histories of emancipation may emphasize an inverse trajectory: about the hiding of violence and responsibility. That dynamic is of both historical and contemporary interest. In this case, the logic that emerged in favor of indenture in the 1850s bears a striking resemblance to something that may seem inevitable today: that patterns of mass consumption in parts of the world depend on extreme low-wage labor far away.

What are you working on next? Will you be pursuing related research questions or turning to something completely different?

The article is part of a larger book project, tentatively titled Worthy of Freedom. The focus of the project initially concerned political culture and ideologies of power, as this article attests. But over time, the project grew larger and more diverse methodologically. In addition to the ideology of indenture, the book examines the system’s legal structure and its local and global economic effects. I endeavor to show how the legal category of ‘free labor’ changed over time, and trace a set of private, official debates on the subject, whose trajectory largely mirrors that of the public debates analyzed in the article. Meanwhile, I became fascinated by the ways in which indenture shaped the political economy of emancipation, and by the material relationship between indenture and free trade. I published some of my economic arguments focused on state debt in “Indenture as Compensation: State Funding for Labor Migration in the Era of Emancipation,” Slavery & Abolition 40, no. 3 (2019). A key interest and challenge for the book is interweaving these three levels of analysis.

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February
9
2018

NACBS 2018 Annual Book and Article Prize Competitions

Posted by rdaily under Prize | Tags: john ben snow, stansky, walter d. love | 0 Comments

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The 2018 NACBS book and article prize competitions are now open. Submissions are due April 1st, 2018. For more details, please see the links below.

John Ben Snow Prize details here.

Walter D. Love Prize details here.

Stansky Prize details here.

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February
12
2012

WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE 2011 COMPETITION

Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, Grants and Awards, NACBS | Tags: 2012, article prize, prize, walter d. love | 0 Comments

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REMINDER: Deadline April 1, 2012

WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE 2011 COMPETITION

The WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE in History is a $150 award given annually by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best article or paper of similar length or scope by a North American scholar in the field of British history.  The 2012 prize will be awarded to an article published during the calendar year 2011.  The prize journal article or paper, which may be published anywhere in the world, should exhibit a humane and compassionate understanding of the subject, imagination, literary grace, and scrupulous scholarship.  It should also make a significant contribution to its field of study.  Chapters from longer works are not eligible, but papers appearing in edited collections of essays are eligible.

All scholars who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada and living in either country at the time of the award are eligible to compete.  A copy of the nominated article or paper should be sent by April 1, 2012 to each member of the Prize Committee.  For prompt attention, mark packages "NACBS Prize Committee."  Send submissions to:

Professor Sandra den Otter, Chair
Department of History
Queen's University
Kingston, ON
Canada
K7L 3N6
Email: [email protected]

Professor Ethan Shagan
Department of History
UC Berkeley
3229 Dwinelle Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-2550
Email: [email protected]

Professor Nicoletta Gullace
Department of History
University of New Hampshire
Horton Social Science Center
20 Academic Way
Durham, New Hampshire 03824
Email: [email protected]

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February
4
2010

WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE 2010 COMPETITION

Posted by jaskelly under Announcement, Grants and Awards | Tags: competition, love prize, NACBS, prize, walter d. love | 0 Comments

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The WALTER D. LOVE PRIZE in History is a $150 award given annually by the North American Conference on British Studies for the best article or paper of similar length or scope by a North American scholar in the field of British history.  The 2010 prize will be awarded to an article published during the calendar year 2009.  The prize journal article or paper, which may be published anywhere in the world, should exhibit a humane and compassionate understanding of the subject, imagination, literary grace, and scrupulous scholarship.  It should also make a significant contribution to its field of study.  Chapters from longer works are not eligible, but papers appearing in edited collections of essays are eligible.

All scholars who are citizens or permanent residents of the United States or Canada and living in either country at the time of the award are eligible to compete.  A copy of the nominated article or paper should be sent by April 1, 2010 to each member of the Prize Committee.  For prompt attention, mark packages "NACBS Prize Committee."  Send submissions to:

Professor Derek Hirst
History Department
Box 1062
Washington University
St Louis, Mo. 63130
Email: [email protected]

Professor Karen Robertson
Vassar College
English Department
Sanders Classroom building (SC)  Box 744
124 Raymond Ave.
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604-0744
Email: [email protected]

Professor Ina Zweiniger-Bargelowska
Department of History
University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of History (M/C 198)
913 University Hall
601 South Morgan Street
Chicago, IL 60607-7109
Email: [email protected]

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