Verslag: ‘Slaving Zones’ Conference
In 1742 Jacobus Capitein was the first African man – a former slave, no less – to defend his PhD dissertation at Leiden University. The Dutch West India Company Directors were thrilled with his defence of Christian ownership of Christian slaves. More than two and half centuries later, past enslavement of co-religionists was again under discussion in the halls of the Leiden Academy Building, amongst various other pertinent issues in analyses of global slavery.
In early June international and local scholars gathered at Leiden University for the first Leiden Slavery Studies Association conference. Organised around the theoretical conception of ‘slaving zones’ (Fynn-Paul, 2009), one of the central questions addressed at the conference was why some groups of people have been enslaved throughout history, and others not. Speakers were invited to address questions of identity, ideologies and institutions in global slavery.
Conference highlights included the three plenary sessions during which eminent scholars Prof Jennifer Glancy, Prof William D. Phillips, Jr and Prof Herbert Klein addressed the conference delegates. During the rest of the conference, which only lasted two days, the organisers managed to fit in some twenty-five presentations in parallel sessions.
The sessions were organised according to vast geographical and temporal swathes, ranging from the Ancient Mediterranean to nineteenth-century United States, and Modern Africa. Needless to say, the range of scholarly inquiring was vast and inspiring. It was particularly encouraging to see the time given to junior researchers to present their doctoral work and engage in discussion and debate with established members of the academy.
The Slaving Zones conference is one of a number of exciting projects to come from the dynamic Leiden Slavery Studies Association. During the conference, the organisers announced a new journal, the Journal of Global Slavery – look out for the first issue to be made available in 2016. In addition, conference organisers Damian Pargas and Jeff Fynn-Paul are editing a series entitled Studies in Global Slavery, published by Brill. Clearly, the study of global slavery is high on the agenda in Leiden at the moment and it is gaining momentum. For those who missed out on the first edition of the conference, you will have another opportunity – the plan is for it to become a biennial event. We can look forward to what’s in store for 2017.
Kate J. Ekama (University of Leiden)