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The indenture legacy

Les suites de l’engagisme (XIXe-XXIe siècle)

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Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Pour ce premier appel à communication, nous nous intéresserons surtout aux « diasporas » provoquées par l’engagisme. L’histoire de l’engagisme, phénomène migratoire de grande ampleur, reste peu étudiée à l’échelle internationale. Pourtant son importance est capitale au regard de l’histoire coloniale européenne et de la construction identitaire des anciens territoires coloniaux, des pays d’origine des engagés (Inde, Chine, Mozambique, Afrique de l’Ouest, etc…), de l’Europe ultra-marine, des Amériques et même de l’Europe continentale. Ce colloque international organisé sous forme de deux ateliers a pour ambition de contribuer à mettre en avant les déplacés eux-mêmes, ou leurs descendants, et d’analyser leur parcours identitaire au prisme d’expériences de vies.


International conference, Novembre 26-27, 2020, Université de Nantes (France)


CRHIA (Centre for Research in International History and History of the Atlantic) - Université de Nantes (France)


The Centre for Research in International History and history of the Atlantic (CRHIA) of the University of Nantes (France) is launching an international research groupDIASCOMalong with aresearch programmeworking on the study of the diasporas born out of the slave trade and indentured service in the long colonial context, and on the communities formed by the descendants of these African and Asian communities, in the decolonization context.

The aim of thisfive-year project in global history (2020-2025) is to examinethe agency of the diasporic groups born out of forced displacement, in colonial and post-colonial contexts.

In the first part of the DIASCOM programme, we would like to study the socio-economic, political and cultural strategies developed by the numerous ethnic groups deported by European nations from their home country, forming diasporas and diasporic communities over the years, in order to survive, adapt and take root in the colonies of the Atlantic, Indian or Pacific oceans, in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries?

Then in the second part of the DIASCOM programme, we would like to examine the historical and political contexts of the more recent phenomenon of the return of the Afro- descendant or Asian-descendant diasporas, as well as their sometime forced re-displacements in the 20th and 21st centuries (the so-called double diasporas). Indeed in many cases, some of these diasporic groups considered a return to the home country in the wake of decolonization, while others were forcefully uprooted, in the context of independence wars for instance, seekingrefugeinthehomecountryorinEurope.Inthehistoricalcontextofdecolonisation,

what were/are the socio-economic, political or cultural strategies used by the new diasporas formed by the descendants of past indentured servants and slaves, when they decide to stay put, or rather to return to their home country, or to seek refuge in European metropoles.

Aware that many research groups and networks are already at work on similar topics related to migrations and diasporas around the globe (« Diaspora, Migration and Identities»,Diaspolinks…), the DIASCOM programme chooses to focus primarily on the historicization of the forced migrations that gave birth to diasporas in the colonial context and on the social, geographical and cultural evolution of these diasporic populations who bear the legacy of indenture and slavery in the post-colonial era. A series of publications (online and printed) is planned.

We begin our networking strategy by setting up a first two-day conference in Nantes (France), on November 21-22, 2020. We wish to address one less studied aspect in diasporic studies:Diaspora formation in the wake of indenture.

We hope to gather together specialists of socio-ethnic groups transported out of Africa and Asia for indentured service in European colonies at large, in North and South Americas, in the West Indies, in the Indian or Pacific oceans.

Forstep 1# of the DIASCOM programme(the two-day conference in November 2020) we hope to develop some comparative analyses of diasporas born out of indenture, including the descendants of the first transported labourers, and their « settlement » strategy in the colonies. Our perspective in studying their agency is clearly transnational and it aims at filling up the gap in the current literature on the indenture legacy in diasporic studies.

At the end of that first conference, we wish to establish a network of international scholars to take the programme to its next steps and to solicit the support of sponsors.

We intend to gather a number of researchers with whom we will develop further historical research on diasporic formations, diasporic communities, displacement and redisplacement of new generations, or on the memory and legacy of indenture and slavery within the recent generations of descendants.

Step 2# of the DIASCOM programme (a two-day conference in November 2021) will focus on the return or on the redisplacement of the descendants of the indenture diasporas in the 20th and 21stcentury.

The following steps (2022-2023) will extend our research to other forced migrations, beginning with the slave trade and the examination of the slavery legacy among the Afro- descendant communities at large.

Then our final stage (2024-2025) intends to discuss all diasporas born out of forced migration or traumatic experiences in the course of the 19th and 20th century (including European diasporas), and their return to the home country out of choice or because of forced displacement in the 20th and 21st centuries. We also wish to compare the policies set up by European countries to deal with the return of these ethnic diasporas born out of European imperialism or out of traumatic circumstances in Europe, in the 20th and 21st centuries.

We invite researchers working on diasporic communities born out of indenture, in the course of the colonial context, to a two-day conference organised at Université de Nantes (France).

We wish to hear scientific presentations based on current historical research on the diasporic groups and communities formed of indentured labourers, and their « settlement » strategies in European colonies overseas. Discussions will start with the examination of the « agency » of the first generation of indentured labourers, transported to the colonies after the abolition of slavery. Then we will analyse their descendants’ community strategies in colonial and postcolonial context.

Guest speakers from other diaspora/migration programmes in Europe will also be invited to present their epistemological approach and the current research of their network.

Our research perspective in studying these less-studied diasporic groups forcefully transported to European colonies, is clearly historical and transnational (Levitt, 2010). It aims at filling up the gap in the current literature on the indenture legacy in diasporic studies.

For the sake of efficiency, the two-day conference on « The indenture legacy » will be organised along two workshops, with pre-circulated papers. In each workshop the focus will

be on the « settlement » phase, on identity formation, community building, cultural strategies used by diasporic communities in colonial context. Papers will analyse the early strategies of the communities of indentured labourers, and their survival modes in specific colonial contexts. Presenters can also choose to analyse the imperial policies regarding indentured servants in colonial context.

Workshop 1(day 1) will provide a «historical and socio-cultural perspective on the indentured diasporas »and ontheir community agency in the oppressive context of forced migration.

We seek presentations on the formation and settlement of indentured diasporas, from the recruiting phase of ethnic groups in their home country in the course of the 19th century (from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia, Europe…) to the « settlement » process of these masses of labourers in the colonies throughout the globe. Based on case studies, papers could focus on the sense of belonging that the first generation of indentured labourers developed upon arrival in the colonies:

  • How did the first generation of indentured men and women organize themselves in communities?
  • How did they position their groups regarding the rest of the European settlers or the emancipated slaves ?
  • What strategies did they develop to form communities, to maintain their cultural identity and their communal values in that constrainedcontext.
  • Did they express any political views, any resistance to oppression and exploitation, or any desire to return to their home country?

Workshop 2(day two) will be dedicated to «The legacy of indenture on the descendant communities» will gather presentations on the cultural, political or social strategies of the descendants born out of the first indentured diasporas, in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Through a transdisciplinary approach, papers will address the strategies used by the successive generations by either:

  • Preserving the original communities founded by their parents, and constructing an imaginary or real relationship to « home»,by initiating new diapsoras from home (marriage, chain migrations), by consolidating cultural and economic connections with the homecountry.
  • Emancipating themselves from their family legacy and denying the memory of forced migration, by seeking integration in the host country and claiming socialsuccess…
  • Claiming a political status within the host country, asking forreparations…
  • Thinking about returning to the home country in the context ofdecolonization.

Bearing in mind the historical context in which the second and third generations evolved - the rise of independence and emancipation movements in the colonies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – it would be interesting to historicize the strategies of these diasporic communities in the host colony, or vis à vis their home country for those considering to return there after decolonization.

At the end of this first conference, we wish to establish a network of international scholars to take the programme to its next steps. Next, we wish develop further historical research on diasporic formations and diasporic communities born out of slavery and servitude, as well on their community-building strategies in colonial context. Then, we will focus on the postcolonial context to analyse the strategies of displacement and double diaspora of the Afro- or Asian descendants bearing the legacy of forced migration. (see DIASCOM presentation)


Proposals for papers in English or French (500 words) along with a short bio must be submitted

by May 15, 2020

to the organisers:programmediascom@gmail.com.

Papers can be submitted to one workshop or two workshops for colleagues working on a transgenerational perspective.

Notification of acceptance will be sent byJune 15, 2020.

Papers will be pre-circulatedso we expect a full draft of your contribution byNovember 1, 2020.

After the conference, our scientific committee will proceed to select a number of articles (7,000 to 8,000 words) for a peer-reviewed volume.

Contact info: programmediascom@gmail.com

Practical details

Registration fees : 25 euros

Room and board covered by the conference. Participants must pay for their own travel expenses.

Steering committee

  • Françoise Le Jeune (CRHIA, Université de Nantes) Virginie Chaillou-Atrous (CRHIA, Université de Nantes)
  • Sacha Crusson (chargée de communication, CRHIA, Université de Nantes) Aurélie Cloarec (Gestionnaire financière, CRHIA, Université de Nantes)

Sélection Committee

  • Ajay Dubey (Centre for African Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
  • Allessandro Stanziani (CNRS, EHESS)
  • Bernard Michon (CRHIA, Université de Nantes)
  • Delphine Diaz (CERHIC, Université de Reims)
  • Edward Alpers (UCLA History Department, Los Angeles)
  • Jenny Raflik (CRHIA, Université de Nantes)
  • Judith Misrahi-Barak (EMMA, Université de Montpellier)
  • Marie-Pierre Ballarin (URMIS,IRD)
  • Mathieu Claveyrolas (CNRS, EHESS, CEIAS)
  • Olivier Dard (Sirice, Université Paris 4)
  • Pieter Emmer (Université de Leyde, Pays-Bas)
  • Vijaya Teelock (Université de Maurice)

Organization Committee

  • Françoise Le Jeune (CRHIA, Université de Nantes) : Francoise.Le-Jeune@univ-nantes.fr
  • Virginie Chaillou-Atrous (CRHIA, Université de Nantes) : Virginie.chaillou@univ-nantes.fr
  • Sacha Crusson (chargée de communication, CRHIA, Université de Nantes) 
  • Aurélie Cloarec (Gestionnaire financière, CRHIA, Université de Nantes)


  • Chemin de la Censive du Tertre
    Nantes, France (44)


  • Friday, May 15, 2020


  • engagisme, colonisation, migration, diasporas, intégration, communautarisme, héritage


  • Virginie Chaillou-Atrous
    courriel : programmediascom [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Françoise Le Jeune
    courriel :

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Sacha Crusson
    courriel : crhia [at] univ-nantes [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The indenture legacy », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2020, https://doi.org/10.58079/14s5

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