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Slavery and Dependency: New Perspectives on Cultural Heritage and German Global History

July 6-8, 2022

Conference organizers: Claudia Jarzebowski and Pia Wiegmink (BCDSS), Susanne Lettow (FU Berlin), and Heike Raphael-Hernandez (University of Würzburg)

The conference will explore questions regarding the heritage of slavery and other forms of historical dependency such as peonage, indentured servitude, bondage, or serfdom in German global history since the 1450s, as German actors have been partaking in colonial expansion and enslavement from the very beginning. With our gathering for the German global context, we will bring together established and emerging research approaches that have been guided by fundamental questions concerning slavery and dependency studies. For example, we see that for the longest time knowledge production has happened via primary sources that often comprise authoritative texts, criminal records, court documents, company archives, and life writings by those who enslaved and exploited men, women, children and who – as merchants of goods and humans – grew rich. Other sources, that is, texts produced by enslaved or bonded people, material remnants, medical and spiritual knowledge, and oral culture as remembered and kept alive in music, dance, and oral literature, were often ignored by Western historiography. Therefore, questions pertaining to the agency and resistance of enslaved and dependent people will be of primary importance. Related to this context, we see that several debates on slavery and dependency heritage have increasingly gained attention during the last decades. These debates inspired a broad discussion of what heritage means in terms of which remainders of colonial oppression, aggression, and violence should be considered heritage and hence ‘worth’ preserving. At present, heritage discussions accelerate especially in the context of the Humboldt Forum and its museal collections. However, approaches, such as the notions of “slavery hinterlands” (Brahms/Rosenhaft) or “global peripheries” (Wimmler/Weber) are by and large still absent from public discourses and debates of German heritage. The conference thus will bring together scholars working in the fields of (German) Global History, Slavery Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Literary and Cultural Studies to discuss the contents, contexts, methodological challenges, and theoretical debates that inform current research on slavery, dependency, heritage, and German global history.

The Conference will take place at the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies, University of Bonn, Germany.

Call for Papers

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies: Slavery and Dependency: New Perspectives on Cultural Heritage and German Global History

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