Contesting Slavery

Wednesday, 25 March 2015, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
sugar-plantation_webThe persistence of slavery in large parts of Eastern Europe served as decisive proof of the region’s backwardness for many philosophers and travel writers of the Enlightenment. Some recent attempts at explaining the so-called “second serfdom”, however, have steered away from such simplistic accounts and focus instead on different modes of adjustment to contingent historical circumstances such as the bubonic plague epidemic of the 14th century. Nevertheless, the link between the re-emergence of unfree labor in the East and the rise of capitalist economies in Western Europe remains significantly understudied. Moreover, most existing accounts of Eastern European slavery in the Age of Enlightenment overlook contemporary local critiques of serfdom. The seminar is an attempt at filling aforementioned gaps by proposing an entangled history of Eastern European “second serfdom”, which situates its subject matter at the intercrossing between early Western capitalism and late Eastern feudalism and between Enlightenment and local political traditions.

Pawel Marczewski is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Warsaw. From Ocotber 2014 to July 2015 he is a Bronislaw Geremek Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.