Infrastructure of Indigeneity : The League of Nations and the Archival Cut of “Unfree Labour”

Presented by Bodhi Kar

Monday, 9 October, 2017 - 15:00

Between 1919 and 1931, the question of unfree “native labour” was constantly shuttled and moved around between various agencies of the League of Nations. Since the formation of the International Labour Organization in 1919 and the first Temporary Slavery Commission in 1924, the metropolitan ambiguity and uneasiness around the colonial “conditions analogous to slavery” increased substantially. As the boundaries of the respective jurisdictions of ILO and TSC came to be repeatedly readjusted to accommodate the different exigencies of imperial rule in Asia, Africa and South America, a complex series of inter-imperial negotiations began to reveal fundamental contestations stretched across the entire intellectual infrastructure of the labour question. The meanings of compulsion, labour, and tradition underwent serious conceptual displacements, leading to deep reconfiguration of disciplinary expertise and redistribution of governmental technologies. In critically exploring the history of the archival segregation of “slavery” and “other forms” of unfree labour, this paper points at a set of methodological issues haunting the historiographical disjunctions between lineage and labour, and suggests new transactions between the histories of the infrastructural and the indigenous.

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