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Anthropology Speaker - Lars Rodseth

204 Maxwell Hall

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The Department of Anthropology Presents Dr. Lars Rodseth, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University.  

His talk titled  Debt Bondage and Bourgeois Freedom: Purifying Labor in Guyana and Trinidad  will be held on Thursday November 6th from 4:00-5:00 in 204 Maxwell Hall.   

“Freedom” and “slavery” are mutually defining terms of modern ideology.  This much has been established by historians and social theorists working on the close, paradoxical relationship between the European Enlightenment and the African slave trade.  Yet the freedom-slavery divide is just one example of a much broader, “purifying” impulse—the tendency in the West since the seventeenth century to carve up the world according to the ontological binary of “nature” and “society.”  In this light, debt bondage and other forms of dependent labor become anomalous “hybrids”—neither the natural state of free labor nor the artificial institution of slavery.  This paper examines debt bondage in two British colonies as a case study in the purification of labor as a natural category.  Shifting definitions of “bondage” in British culture, especially in cases of apprenticeship or indentured servitude, provide an ironic counterpoint to liberal notions of labor as either free or enslaved.  Drawing together the insights of Louis Dumont (1970), Bruno Latour (1993), and Susan Buck-Morss (2009), I seek to understand how the bourgeois concept of freedom was produced and refined, not just in opposition to slavery but within a wide and problematic field of hybrid practices.  

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