Join the ITH
ith logo
Working on the Land: Actors, Societies and Environments

55th ITH Conference
5-7 September 2019, Linz/Upper Austria

Organised by:
International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH), kindly supported by the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Department of Social and Economic History, Johannes Kepler University Linz, the Institute of Rural History, St. Pölten, and the City of Linz

Preparatory Group:
Lisa Bolyos (Vienna), Josef Ehmer (University of Vienna), Winfried R. Garscha (Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance/DÖW), Dirk Hoerder (Vienna), Erich Landsteiner (University of Vienna), Ernst Langthaler (Johannes Kepler University Linz), Lukas Neissl (ITH, Vienna), Silke Neunsinger (Labour Movement Archives and Library, Stockholm), Brigitte Pellar (Vienna), Susan Zimmermann (ITH, Vienna)

Objectives:
The ITH Conference 2019 aims at strengthening the links between labour history and rural history. It intends to address the topic “working on the land” from two different angles: firstly, agricultural work as co-production of society and nature and, secondly, rural labour relations as elements of larger political and economic systems. Contributions to this conference will explore how these two perspectives complement each other, identify research desiderata and blind spots in the respective other, creatively develop bridges and contribute to the theoretical, methodological and empirical enrichment of the history of agrarian work and labour.

The first angle highlights how agricultural work – growing cereals, tree- or garden-crops, raising cattle, working in woods and forestry or processing raw materials produced on the land – differs from other forms of work. It draws our attention to the differences of agriculture from other branches of the economy due to its natural embedment: the natural constraints on the choice of crops in specific regions, the biological growth processes of plants and animals, the seasonality of the labour process, the uncertainties of weather and the resulting output-related risks and the effects these features may have (had) on the material and immaterial traits of culture, such as settlement patterns, household composition, techniques and technology, perceptions of the environment, the possibilities to intensify the production process, the choice of contracts, social stratification and property rights. In order to grasp the co-production of society and nature, researchers might undertake in-depth case studies with a regional or local focus.

The second angle from which the topic is being addressed emphasizes the variety of rural labour relations, looking rather at commonalities with other forms of labour relations, and, last but not least, at the wide range of combinations – by individuals and households –between agricultural and non-agricultural work. This includes family farming, service in husbandry, the various forms of free and unfree labour, forced labour and wage labour (e.g. permanent, seasonal, migratory), but also agricultural activities of rural artisans and industrial workers, the gendered and age/life course-related division of labour and many other topics. The connections of these various labour relations with overarching (socio-)political and (socio-)economic formations (for instance, such as territorial states and global capitalism(s) since the sixteenth century) are of particular interest. The respective focus is on more general aspects such as class and power relations, social movements and (non-)organizations of rural workers, mobility and migration, commodity chains, governance structures, the access to landed property and other key resources and market developments as explanations for the social constitution of rural societies. This perspective calls for the broadening of research to multiple scales, ranging from local to global.

The conference aims at bringing together contributions from different disciplines (e.g. history, geography, sociology, economics, anthropology) and multiple temporal and spatial contexts, which address the complexity of rural labour relations and the agency of rural workers from the angles outlined above. Interest in long- and short-term historical processes and in social change should form the common ground for interdisciplinary discussion. Besides detailed case studies, contributions focused on international comparisons and/or transnational connections are particularly welcome. Papers might highlight the practical rooms of manoeuvre of rural actors, varying between adaptation and resistance, or explore how the history of agrarian labour and work in a given space was influenced by natural opportunities and constraints, technological developments and globalizing market forces. These are but two examples for how contributions to this conference might productively build and expand on the interconnection of rural history and labour history through a focus on the study of work.

Venue:
AK-Bildungshaus Jägermayrhof, Römerstraße 98, A-4020 Linz, Austria

Linz is an industrial town some 180 km west of Vienna and one of the historical centres of the Austrian labour movement. The Austrian Civil War between Austro-fascist militias ("Heimwehren") and the federal army on the one hand, and the paramilitary organization of the Austrian Social Democratic Workers Party, the "Republikanischer Schutzbund" on the other, in February 1934, started in Linz. The surroundings of the Jägermayrhof were among the centres of combat.

Contact:
Lukas Neissl
International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH)
c/o Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW)
Altes Rathaus, Wipplinger Str. 6/Stg., A-1010 Vienna, Austria
email: ith[a]doew.at