Worlds of Related Coercions in Work

The COST Action “Worlds of Related Coercions in Work” (WORCK) calls for a radical change of perspective in labour history. It links the stories of work and production with those of violence, expropriation and marginalisation.

By studying the persistence and transformations of coercion and bondage across gender orders, geographic regions and historical eras, WORCK shifts the focus of labour history: Neither the male-breadwinner model nor the free wage labourer or the capitalist mode of production can form the blueprint for this new history of WORCK. Instead, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of coercion in all work relations throughout history is the pivot of this endeavour.

By detecting the “logic of deployment” (Banaji 2010) in a long-term and global perspective, WORCK seeks to move beyond the analytical framework of the modern West. Radical historicisation shall help to reconceptualise labour history as a specific approach to social history and to link the study of the past with current debates on social inequalities and the flexibilisation and precarisation of work worldwide.

The conceptual approach of this COST Action bridges the gaps between specialised but hitherto separate subfields to create an academic space that cuts across standard research fields and enables exchanges between scholars working on various topics, including but not limited to:

  • Construction work in ancient civilisations
  • Indentured work and sharecropping in rural societies
  • Chattel slavery and coolie work
  • Debt bondage
  • Convict labour
  • Military labour and impressment
  • Coercive mechanisms in household work and wage labour
  • Precariousness and modern forms of casualization

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Research and aims

WORCK promotes the dialogue and widens the chronological and conceptual scope between global labour history, area studies, gender studies, the history of bondage and coercion prior to 1500, and Legal Studies on contemporary forms of coercion.

WORCK sets up a digital research infrastructure and develops a new analytical framework that helps to overcome the dominance of the conceptual matrix of the modern West in the humanities and to conceptualise a new history of work.

WORCK seeks to rebalance historiographies and to encourage mutual learning and conceptual innovation between English-speaking and non-English-speaking academia.

WORCK includes stakeholders from outside academia and engages in public debates on social inequalities and the flexibilization and precarization of work worldwide.

About the COST Action

COST is an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology. It exists to coordinate ongoing research on a European level that is funded nationally. Rather than funding research itself, resource creation or IT systems development, COST Actions provide the networking support needed to ensure that nationally funded initiatives add up to something greater than the sum of their individual parts.

The COST Action CA18205 “Worlds of Related Coercions in Work” (WORCK) is therefore essentially a networking programme. Grown out of the working group “Free and Unfree Labour” of the European Labour History Network, it brings together labour and social historians, linguists and anthropologists, lawyers and sociologists from all over Europe.

From 1 November 2019 to 31 October 2023, this COST Action organizes

  • annual WORCK Meetings,
  • annual WORCK Conferences and
  • biannual Training Schools,
    and finances
  • Short Term Scientific Missions and
  • ITC Conference Grants for early PhD students and early career investigators from Inclusiveness Target Countries (ICT, i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldava, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Republic of North Macedonia, Republic of Serbia and Turkey).

WORCK applies the COST Inclusiveness Policy to bring out excellence in science Europe-wide and to clear away obstacles by offering low-barrier entry research networks and creating interdisciplinary research cooperation opportunities for researchers. Mainly based on geographical spread, career stage and gender balance, it seeks to reach balance between Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITC) and non-ITC Member Countries, between senior and early career researchers and between men and women for leading positions, selection committees and coordinating tasks. WORCK prioritises early career investigators and researchers without institutional support for reimbursement, and favours ITC locations as local hosts for WORCK activities.

Publication Platform

The WORCK publication platform documents the ongoing working and discussion process as well as collaborative research results and publications of this network.

Publication Platform

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In our Blog, we address current debates on labour and coercion.
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