Wednesday, November 26, 2008

CONF./CFP - Slavery, Ransom and Liberation in Russia and the Steppe Area, 1500-2000, U. of Aberdeen, June 15-16

Distrib. by: Central-Eurasia-L - Announcement List for Central Eurasian Studies

CONF./CFP - Slavery, Ransom & Liberation in Russia and Steppe, Aberdeen, Jun 15

Posted by: Christoph Witzenrath <>

Recent research has demonstrated that early modern slavery was much
more widespread than the traditional concentration on plantation
slavery in the context of European colonial expansion would suggest.
Slavery and slave trading were common across wide stretches of
Eurasia, and a slave economy played a vital part in the political and
cultural contacts between Russia and its Eurasian neighbours. This
international conference backed by the Leverhulme Trust concentrates
on captivity, slavery and ransom in the vicinity of the Eurasian
steppe from the early modern period to recent developments and seeks
to explore its legacy and relevance down to the present day. The
conference will centre on the Russian Empire, while aiming to bring
together scholars from various disciplines and historical traditions
of the leading states in this region, including Poland-Lithuania, the
Ottoman Empire, Persia, Mongolia and China, and their various
successor states. At the centre of attention will be transfers,
transnational fertilisations and the institutional mechanisms, rituals
and representations facilitating enslavement, exchanges and ransoming.
Slaving, ransoming and captivity have long been marginal subjects of
historical research in this area; however, recently historians in
Russian imperial history and in some other fields have returned to
take a fresh look at a subject that continues to influence mutual
perceptions in the area as demonstrated by popular culture, social
movements and nineteenth century discourse on Northern American
slavery. Conference participants may approach the subject informed by
social and cultural historical methods.

The conference will seek to apply clearly defined terms, especially
with respect to slaves and other forms of bonded labour, and will look
at such topics as:
* The material and military history of slavery in Eastern Europe,
Eurasia, and the Black Sea. In what ways and by what means did slavers
and slave owners capture, buy and exploit their victims?
* The scale of the phenomenon: what was the extent of slavery and how
extensive was the slave economy?
* When and why did the medieval east-west trade in slaves change to
become largely a north-south trade? Who, and what social or ethnic
groups engaged in this specific trade?
* Where did slaves end up, alive or dead, and to which parts of the
world were they sent or dragged?
* How did captives and slaves returning to Eastern Europe and Eurasia
culturally manifest their professed plight? What can na narratives of
captivity tell about the perception of slavery and captivity among
those who went through it? What is the documentary value of these
* Russia expanded at a time which saw a renewed focus on slavery and
ransoming. In how far were these trends connected? How did Russia and
other powers try to convert transnational contacts related to slavery
and captivity into power?
* What kind of rituals and institutions diplomatic and domestic ?
helped to assert the power of the tsar far beyond the claimed sphere
of influence, on the slave markets and in the steppe? What were the
attitudes of the Orthodox Church towards slavery and redemption? To
what extent did the official culture of the Russian Empire engage with
* In what ways did captivity, slavery and ransoming become culturally
* In what ways were debates on human rights and ideas of freedom in
the steppe area related to or influenced by slavery and ransoming?
* What roles do captives and the memory of captivity play in the
area's contemporary culture, media and politics?

Don Ostrowski (Harvard) will deliver the key note.

Please send proposals for papers, consisting of a short c.v. and a 500
words abstract of the contribution.

Deadline for submitting proposals: 11 January 2009.

The conference will be supported by the Leverhulme Trust. Participants
whose home institution can not fund travelling might be partly
reimbursed pending further funding applications under way.

Contact, questions, and submission of applications: Dr Christoph
Witzenrath, History Department, Crombie Annexe, University of
Aberdeen, UK, AB24 3FX, tel. ++44-1224-272453,

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