International Labour History Conference 2008
5-8 September 2008, Johannesburg (South Africa)

ITH organised a panel: “New developments in Labour History” at the conference: “Labour Crossings: World, Work and History”, organised by the History Workshop, University of Witwatersrand, and the Centre for Sociological Research, University of Johannesburg, in association with the International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI) and the International Conference of Labour and Social History (ITH), Johannesburg, 5.-8.9.2008

How to renew Labour Studies? This question was the rationale of the panel. New global approaches to labour history will prove useful only to the extent that they respect and feed upon the richness of distinct historiographical traditions in the various regions of the world. Identifying connected, parallel or diverging tendencies in the trajectories of labour across borders and world regions and organizing a dialogue between the various historiographical traditions seems essential for the development of global approaches to labour history. This panel contributed to this task by operating a “crossing” of labour histories of Europe, South Africa, Latin America, and South Asia.

Under the chair of Marcel van der Linden (IISG Amsterdam, ITH), Berthold Unfried gave a contribution on trends in labour history and recent orientations of ITH: Networks as a concept for transnational Labour history. Rana Behal (Association of Indian Labour History, Delhi), situated this umbrella organisation of Indian Labour historiography in the Traditions of South Asian Labour Historiography. Martin Legassick (Univ. Cape Town) and Claudio Batalha (Univ. Campinas and Mundos do Trabalho, Brasil) evaluated strengths and desiderata of these regional historiographies in order to explore potentials of ‘cross-fertilization’.

For ITH, this was the occasion to establish contact with Labour historians from Africa, Asia and Latin America and their respective associations – the Association of Indian Labour Historians, Mundos do Trabalho in Brasil, and the Association of Southern African Labour Historians whose foundation was decided at the conference. This cooperation shall be continued in international conferences planned for the years 2009 and 2010.