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CfP: 53rd Annual Conference of the International Association of Labour History Institutions "Labour History beyond Europe and North America: Challenges, Initiatives, Debates", Buenos Aires, 4-8 September 2023

09-02-2023 13:25

The institutions that make up IALHI come mostly from European countries and, to a lesser extent, from North America. Only in three occasions, since its foundation more than 50 years ago, did IALHI organize its annual conference outside Europe: twice in the United States and once in South Africa. The reasons for this situation are diverse, and have to do with the patterns of development of labour historiography, with the weight and traditions of labour organisations in these regions, and of course with the greater financial and technical resources of the institutions of richer countries, as well as with the colonial ties of their own states and their capacity to gather documentation, archives and books from the so-called ‘Global South.’

Undoubtedly, however, both the political initiatives of the working classes and the efforts to preserve, study and disseminate their history have a rich tradition outside Europe and North America. Certainly aware of this, in recent decades IALHI has made every effort to extend its presence in other parts of the world, and the organisation of the 2023 conference in Buenos Aires offers an opportunity to strengthen links with Argentine and Latin American labour history institutions, to promote IALHI's presence in the region, and to foster a broad discussion on the specific problems and challenges encountered by labour history institutions beyond Europe and North America.

Due primarily to economic difficulties (which lead to infrastructure problems, limited capacity to purchase materials, scarce resources for research and publishing, etc.), the everyday life of labour history institutions in the Global South might be different than that of their peers in the North. But to what extent? In what ways? At the same time, experience shows that such institutions are very resilient and implement a wide repertoire of initiatives to overcome these complications and carry out their work, resulting in a vast network of centres, institutions and groups that animate a vibrant community dedicated to the subject. Argentina, whose labour movement and left political currents have a long and rich history, is a clear example of this.

The scope of the topics we are interested in discussing at the conference is deliberately broad and seeks to address all aspects of interest to our institutions: the development and conservation of archives and collections, library management, initiatives in the digital humanities, issues related to research and links with researchers, projects related to the publication of books and journals. In addition to convening institutions (affiliated to IALHI or not) and specialists from the Global South, we also invite European and North American members of IALHI to contribute their reflections on these issues, based on their own experiences working with archival materials and colleagues from other regions.

We invite the entire community of archivists, librarians, collectors, researchers, and publishers working on the history of labour, social movements in a broad sense, political parties, associations linked to the struggle for human rights and the causes of solidarity and anti-imperialism, feminism, etc. to submit papers that address these issues. Below, a non-exhaustive and non-exclusive list of possible topics:

How to build and develop archives of the history of labour, the left and social movements in the so-called ‘Global South’? How to access sources and collections The question of archives and materials in foreign institutions and the possibilities of accessing them and/or transferring them to their countries of origin.

What is the contribution of oral history to the history of the labour movement and the left, and how are these testimonies collected and organized? Are they eventually incorporated into state archives?

What are the challenges for the preservation and conservation of archives and collections? What sort of technical and infrastructural problems need to be addressed? Initiatives and difficulties in the field of digitisation and dissemination of materials.

What specific problems (and solutions) have been encountered in terms of library management? How to access (expensive) published literature in the Global North?

What relationship do labour history institutions have with other actors in civil society, in the labour movement itself, and with universities? What sort of relationships have been established with other institutions, both within the country and abroad? Potentialities and limits of these links, in relation to the agendas and needs of each institution.

What are the perspectives of histories of labour and the left beyond Europe and North America? Changes and continuities over the last century, in relation to the different traditions of the ‘core’ countries. What was the reception of the ‘global’ turn in labour history in recent decades?

What specific challenges arise from the study of the crimes of military dictatorships, research on resistance and exile, struggles for memory, truth and justice?

How is labour history disseminated and promoted? Publishing initiatives, journals, books, collections, conferences, meetings, workshops, networks, etc. To what extent do they face similar problems and challenges to those of the ‘Global North’? To what extent are they different? Open access publishing, costs, indexing, etc.

The conference will take place in different venues in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the week of 4-8 September 2023. Researchers, archivists, librarians, publishers, and other colleagues involved in the practice of labour history are invited to submit proposals (a title and an abstract of up to 500 words, in English, Spanish or Portuguese) to info[at], by 31 March 2023. Submissions may address any of the topics listed above, but we also encourage presentations that provide a brief introduction to the activities, holdings and best practices of local, national or regional institutions, centres, journals, and networks, or to suggest a visit in the context of the conference.


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