Historicizing ‘Food Labour’ and Law

Adrian A Smith at the seminar series, Slavery Old and New: Labour Exploitation Through the Ages and Around the Globe

Friday, February 13, 2015, 1:00 – 2:30 PM


A recent surge of interest in the contemporary relationship between food and (unfree) labour invites critical historical reflection. How have historians understood the relationship between labour unfreedom and food production through the ages? And what role does law play in these understandings? Surveying three prominent historical accounts on food and slavery — Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery, Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power and Judith Carney’s Black Rice — I examine the unfree labour-food-law nexus with a view toward historicizing the study of contemporary ‘food labour’ regulation.

Adrian A Smith is Assistant Professor in Carleton University’s Department of Law and Legal Studies. He is cross-appointed to the Institute of Political Economy and the Institute of African Studies. His research interests include labour studies and the global economy, migration, the political economy of development, social movements, and visual legal studies. All of his work is situated within an anti-oppression framework with an emphasis on antiracism and anticolonialism.

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