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Workshop: Labour Mobility in the Socialist World and its Legacies, Oxford 19-20 May 2016

Interested in hearing Professor James Mark keynote speech on socialist globalization and the research work of Dr Ljubica Spaskovska on Yugoslav investment construction and labour mobility? Then why not come along to a workshop hosted by the University of Oxford on the 19-20 May. Papers given at the workshop will also present research work taking place as part of the Socialism Goes Global project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Exeter.

WORKSHOP: LABOUR MOBILITY IN THE SOCIALIST WORLD AND ITS LEGACIES

19-20 May 2016

European Studies Centre, University of Oxford

Workshop Synopsis

Almost 30 years after the crumbling of the state-socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, the conceptualisation of the state-socialist era as a time of immobility and isolation continues to linger. This portrayal utterly misses the robust flows of people, technology, goods, knowledge and capital that took place between socialist states worldwide. Recently, scholars from a variety of disciplines have begun to map these socialist circulations. The planned workshop will build on these pioneering efforts with the goal of furthering the understanding of these complex flows – particularly those involving workers and technical staff – within the erstwhile socialist world.

Some of the socialist circulations, such as the stays by thousands of university students from Africa, Asia and Latin America in various Eastern European countries, have already received some scholarly attention. However, other forms of mobility, such as state-socialist labour migrations, remain largely unexplored. Yet, examples abound: the Vietnamese government dispatched thousands of its teachers, engineers, agronomists, doctors and planners to Madagascar, Guiney, Algeria, Angola and Mozambique; Cuba sent both its intelligentsia and its blue-collar workers to Europe for training and work and simultaneously provided secondary and university education to 30,000 people from the sub-Saharan Africa; Vietnamese, Cubans and Mozambicans travelled for vocational training or as contract workers to the GDR, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, Hungary and Poland; many engineers, doctors, and military officers from eastern Europe travelled in the opposite direction to help build power stations, cement factories or hospitals and to train local personnel for them on site. Labour mobility took place within regions too: Hungarians and Poles, for instance, crossed the border daily or weekly to work in Czechoslovak companies. In short, the world of socialist labour mobility was complex one: It was multidirectional, crossed local borders, spanned world regions, was simultaneously an economic, political and cultural phenomenon.

We also wish to address the contemporary incarnations and the legacy of these past circulations. Business and trade links still follow some of the earlier patterns of socialistera mobility. Some of the experts and students who were trained and socialised in a broader socialist world of the late Cold War continue to hold high positions in many countries and thus shape these countries global engagements today.


 

PRELIMINARY PROGRAMME

Thursday, 19 May 2016 

Arrival, meet & greet, light lunch served at the European Studies Centre from 12:15

13:00–13:15: Opening remarks: Alena Alamgir

Panel 1 – 13:15–15:15 – Labour mobility between the Soviet centre and peripheries (Chair TBA)

  1. Malika Bahovadinova: “Building the state and the proletariat on a Soviet construction site in Tajikistan.”
    2. Kateryna Burkush: “On the forest front: Mechanisms of seasonal labour migration under late socialism (1960s–1980s). The case of Western Ukraine.”
    3. Leyla Sayfutdinova: “Mapping the mobility of Azerbaijani Soviet engineers: linking West and East?”

Break 15:15-15:35

Panel 2 – 15:35–16:45 – Technological flows and exchanges (Chair TBA)

  1. Ljubica Spaskovska: “‘Constructing a better world’ – Yugoslav investment construction and labour mobility in the developing world 1960-1990”
    2. Patryk Babiracki: “Labour mobility at the Poznań International Trade Fair, 1940s– 1960s” Break 16:45–17:05 17:05–18:15: “Mini-keynote” on labour migration by Andreas Eckert, roundtable discussion

Friday, May 20th 

Panel 3 – 9:00–11:00 – Overseas blue-collar workers in state-socialist Central Europe (Chair TBA)

  1. Alena Alamgir: “’They knit sweaters and refuse to follow foreman’s orders’: Vietnamese female workers’ labour disputes in 1980s Czechoslovakia”
    2. Balint Tolmar: “Socialist assistance under a regime of austerity: The case of Cuban temporary workers in Hungary, 1980–1989”
    3. Marcia Schenck: “Legacies of Mozambican and Angolan labour migration to the GDR: ‘East-algia’ and continuing protest“

Break 11:00–11:20

Panel 4 – 11:20–12:30 – Expert migrations (Chair TBA)

  1. Klejd Këlliçi: “Chinese specialist in Albania 1961-1978: From brothers and heroes to villains”
    2. Agnieszka Sadecka: “Polish experts in India as represented in works of nonfiction from 1960s and 1970s”

12:30–13:30: Lunch

13:30–14:40: “Mini-keynote” on socialist globalization by James Mark, roundtable discussion, summary, and conclusion of the workshop

For more information about this event please contact Catherine Devenish: c.devenish@exeter.ac.uk or email european.studies@sant.ox.ac.uk

Socialism Goes Global website: http://socialismgoesglobal.exeter.ac.uk/

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