April 2017

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer (CSSH 53-1, 2011, “The Nature of Sleep“) has just published The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Read more.

Land and Labor Regimes

Tania Li and R. Alan Covey in conversation about land and labor regimes in Indonesia and Peru. In each case, there are elaborate social worlds that must be neutralized, manipulated, or destroyed before they can produce workers. In 16th century Peru, people are turned into peasants by Spanish taxation and land tenure policies. In colonial and contemporary Southeast Asia, plantation labor becomes more or less free as local subsistence systems, global markets, and modes of state investment change.

Reflections of a Novice Spelunker in the Archives

In her CSSH essay, “Determining Emotions and the Burden of Proof in Investigative Commissions to Palestine,” Lori Allen explores the long history of investigative commissions to Palestine. In her reflections below, she talks about how she conducted her research and the special challenges she faced as an ethnographer in the archives.

Volume 59, #2 // April 2017

In her essay, “The Price of Un/Freedom,” Tania Murray Li shows how contemporary oil palm plantation labor in Indonesia paradoxically reproduces, often under the rubric of market “freedom,” key features of Dutch colonial labor regimes. Labor regimes are the assemblages that set the conditions of work. They include materials, spaces, schedules, tools, food, conditions of social reproduction, and the rules of reward and punishment. Labor regimes establish the axes of freedom and “unfreedom,” which Li works out in careful ethnographic and historical detail from 1725 to the present. Too much freedom leaves labor overly mobile, and unprotected in terms of the conditions of social reproduction; too little freedom leaves stunted lives of indentured or contract labor, forms resembling slavery.