The Cluster of Excellence „Formation of Normative Orders“ (www.normativeorders.net), funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, will host a conference on norms and the abolition of slavery in Bad Homburg on 9 and 10 July, 2010.
The conference takes as its starting point the observation that explanations of the decision to abolish slavery, serfdom, or other forms of unfree labour fall between two poles. ‘Idealistic’ explanation highlight shifts in a society’s moral compass which make it impossible to defend extreme forms of economic exploitation, regardless of the costs involved. ‘Cynical’ explanations emphasise changes to economic rationales which rendered enforced labour less appealing, thus lowering the obstacles against the abolition of practices always considered morally dubious. Even the complex, multi-causal analyses which dominate the field incline slightly to the one or the other type of approach.
Based on the experience of a number of conferences organised by the cluster, in which slavery and forced labour often emerged as crucial test cases for broader theories of norm generation and norm enforcement, we therefore think that the role of shifts in normative orders for labour regimes bear further examination. Given the continued resurgence of slavery or other forms of bondage in spite of what would appear to be a clear absence of plausible justification narratives, we should like to study the problem of when and why what kinds of normative arguments have an impact on practice in specific times and places in an interdisciplinary perspective extending from classical times to the present.
We particularly welcome trans-disciplinary approaches, trans-epochal or trans-regional comparisons or the discussion of new cases, regardless of whether their focus is on the problems involved in attempting to disentangle economic and non-economic arguments for abolition. The publication of a peer-reviewed conference volume or journal issue is intended; travel expenses will be covered by the Cluster of Excellence. The languages of the conferences will be English and French. If you are interested in participating, please send a brief (up to one page) abstract of your paper and a brief (one page) CV to Professor Andreas Fahrmeir (email@example.com) by 15 January 2010; you will be informed by January 31, 2010, whether your paper has been accepted.