Labour History News
West Meets East: The ILO
Call for conference proposals: "West Meets East: The International Labor Organization from Geneva to the Pacific Rim"
To be held at the University of California, Santa Barbara February 3-5, 2011
This conference brings together scholars from various national settings and disciplines to explore the historical role of the ILO and its relationship to other standard setting institutions in North America, East Asia, India, and Latin America during the post-World War II period. This is the region which we today call the "Pacific Rim," plus the Indian subcontinent. An ideological as well as geographic construction, this vast region has been economically integrated as never before, linked by trans-Pacific supply chains, financial exchanges, and a soaring number of joint enterprises.
By the end of the 20th century the nations of the Pacific Rim had become the world's most important site of capitalist growth and social transformation, the global center of low-wage manufacturing, transoceanic trade, and economic rivalry. As the ILO approaches its hundredth anniversary, this conference seeks to explore key aspects of its theory and praxis contextualized by the social, economic, and political transformation of both the colonies and nation-states in which this organization, initially set up in Geneva, operated.
We seek contributions employing an historical methodology that can better explain how ideas and practices characteristic of decades past have played a decisive role in shaping contemporary ILO efforts, both transnational and within a single nation, which have advanced social and economic reforms, codified labor standards, and generated conditions for economic growth.
We welcome scholars from various historical fields (labor, business, diplomatic, policy, cultural) and disciplines (law, economics, industrial relations, sociology, history) writing about the ILO, the development and enforcement of labor standards, the ideologies and political outlooks that have structured modernization and economic development programs, and the emergence of human rights and labor rights as issues in trade policy and corporate governance. Regardless of the discipline from which they emerge, all papers should exhibit a clear historical sensibility.
Key issues the conference is designed to explore include ILO efforts to accommodate or overcome the legacy of imperialism and colonization, the impact of World War II and the Cold War, gender and racial constructs which have helped advance or thwart equitable labor standards, ILO economic development and technological assistance projects in non-industrialized regions, and the relationship between universal labor standards and country-specific labor legislation. We hope that conference participants will also explore the growth of Non Governmental Organizations in Asia, Central America, and the United States, including how they both compete with and complement the ILO in setting labor and environmental standards, especially at the company, industry, and supply-chain level; the new architecture of international trade and the opportunities and obstacles this has created for the promulgation and enforcement of international labor standards; and finally the impact of ILO labor conventions as well as the more recent development of corporate codes of social responsibility on country-specific labor legislation, including that of China where an historically unprecedented tide of industrial proletarianization, the rise of labor activism within export sectors of the economy, and the implementation of a new contract labor law, as well as other reforms, has created a world of work and enterprise that is both unstable and immensely consequential for labor in the Pacific Rim and throughout the world.
Sponsored by the ILO Century Project, Geneva; and the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy; The Department of Global and International Studies; and the Hull Chair in Feminist Studies, all at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Proposals should include an abstract of approximately 300 words. Submissions from graduate students and junior scholars are encouraged. These must be received by June 1, 2010 and should be sent by email to Nelson Lichtenstein, , and Jill Jensen, . Invited contributors should submit final essays, for presentation by their author(s), by December 1, 2010. The conference will take place February 3-5, 2011. Support for travel and lodging will be available.