The working group “(Im)Mobilisations of the Workforce” targets the spatial dimension of related coercions. Most forms of coercion and bondage are closely entangled with the history of wars, forced migration, or human trafficking, or with small- or large-scale work migration between town and countryside, metropolis and periphery, or economically strong and weak regions.
At the same time, processes of immobilisation (e.g. the serf bound to the soil or the convict confined to a prison, camp or remote penal colony) are equally crucial for understanding the “logic of deployment” (Banaji 2010) of the workforce by the employer.
Processes and experiences of displacement have become major concerns within the specific historiographies of many systems of coercion in recent decades, but such efforts have only sporadically crossed paths. A notable exception has been the scholarship on convict transportation and comparative studies of runaways, where several attempts at systematic comparison of different types of workers have been made recently – though still primarily confined to West European maritime empires in the early modern period.
WG 3 expands the scope of these efforts to write new histories of workers’ (im)mobilisation.