During most part of the Qing dynasty, emigrating was not encouraged in China, yet, living conditions, overpopulation, conflicts, and poverty, pushed many Chinese citizens abroad. The abolitionist movement in the mid-nineteenth century also triggered Chinese indentured migration to European colonies and other sites with plantation-based economies in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Moreover, evidences of wife selling and child trafficking for the international slave market indicate that they were also ongoing practices from the 1830s. In this seminar, we will use multilingual material in Chinese, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch and German, to analyse the business behind Chinese emigration and the commodification of labour from the second third of the nineteenth century to the first third of the twentieth century. We will particularly pay attention to the agents and intermediaries involved in the im/mobilization of labour, and analyse the circulation of Chinese labourers and trafficked women and children to various destinations – namely to Cuba, Peru, Sumatra, the Straight Settlements, and The Philippines. As in nineteenth-century Chinese labour migration and human trafficking, policy decisions of Western governments, business transparency and intermediaries are also key factors sustaining modern slavery globally. In this seminar, we will use the historical perspective to address questions relevant to contemporary labour migration and exploitation in Asia, such as: what power relations drive the mobility of population? How do various forms of human trafficking become entangled? What are the push and pull factors that intervene in migratory processes? How do territoriality, colonization and migration shape each other?
This seminary is aimed at providing interdisciplinary research training, mixing economic, legal, social, and global history, as well as sociology and Chinese studies.