Worlds of Related Coercions in Work
The COST Action “Worlds of Related Coercions in worK” (WORCK) represents a radical change of perspective on labour history by contending that the coexistence, entanglement and overlapping of diverse work relations has been the rule throughout history. It seeks to overcome the classic divides of labour history discourse (productive/unproductive, free/unfree, capitalist/pre-capitalist) by linking the stories of work and production with those of violence, expropriation and marginalisation. Neither the male-breadwinner model nor the free wage labourer or the capitalist mode of production can form a blueprint for our endeavour; instead we address the persistence and transformation of coercion and bondage across gender orders, world empires and historical eras.
WORCK will establish the following four working groups: “Grammars of Dependency”; “Sites and Fields of Coercion”; “(Im)Mobilisations of the Workforce”; and “Intersecting Marginalities”. This conceptual approach will create an academic space that cuts across standard research fields and enables exchanges between scholars working on topics as various as: construction work in ancient civilisations; indentured work and sharecropping in rural societies; chattel slavery and coolie work; debt bondage, convict labour and military impressment; and coercive mechanisms in household work and wage labour.
WORCK bridges the gaps between specialised but hitherto separate subfields. Moreover, it develops an analytical framework that helps to overcome the dominance of the conceptual matrix of the modern West in the humanities and to conceptualise a new history of work. Its activities will result in a collaborative database and a wide range of dissemination activities for a broader public.