Seed Grant Awarded for Conference: “Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery”

Global Interactions is pleased to announce that Dr. Damian Alan Pargas (History), Dr. Jeff Fynn-Paul (International Studies), and Dr. Karwan Fatah-Black (History) have been awarded a seed grant to support the international conference: “Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery.”

Slaving Zones: Cultural Identities, Ideologies, and Institutions in the Evolution of Global Slavery

Leiden University
1-2 June 2015

Conference Organizers:
Dr. Damian Alan Pargas (History)
Dr. Jeff Fynn-Paul (History/International Studies)
Dr. Karwan Fatah-Black (History/CLACS)

Why have certain groups of people been enslaved throughout history and not others? How have shifting ideologies and group identities impacted and/or informed the nature of slavery and post-slavery in various world societies? How have these ideologies and identities interacted with institutions and political realities in order to produce ever-changing geographies of slavery and freedom across the globe?

Drawing from J. Fynn-Paul’s theoretical concept of “slaving zones,” this international conference will host nearly fifty scholars from all over the world to reflect upon how cultural identities, ideologies, and institutions have affected the evolution of global slavery.

The basic tents of the “slaving zone” theory are: 

1)  that political organization protects people from being targeted as slaves, while political disorganization can have the opposite effect;

2)  that many societies had geographical areas which were ‘slaving zones,’ i.e., places from which slaves could be captured or purchased; 

3)  that many societies created ‘no-slaving zones’ which were (theoretically) off limits to slaving;

4)  that non-monotheistic societies had more permeable ‘no-slaving zones,’ while monotheistic societies tended to create more absolute bans on the enslavement of co-religionists (thus, religious boundaries also acted to create slaving zone boundaries);   

5)  that slaving zones can represent fractures within a given society (for example: some ‘classes’ of people, such as criminals, or the poor, or people of a certain race, creed, or ethnicity might be legitimate slave targets, while others are off limits);

6)  and that identity and ideology play key roles in determining the actual boundaries of slaving zones, often just as much or more than political and economic organization.


Participants to the conference will use their work as a case study to reflect upon how the paradigm of “slaving zones” applies to their own research. Some of the subthemes that conference papers will address include (but are not limited to):

  • the development over time of broad ideologies and group identities that justified and determined who could be enslaved and who could not;

  • the (de-)commodification of slave bodies (i.e., the relegation of slaves to subhuman status and market commodities, and the redefinition of ex-slave bodies after abolition);

  • the causes of forced slave migration and border crossings (within and between slave societies, but also from slave to free territories), and their effect on slaving zone ideologies and cultural identities;

  • the development over time of slave and non-slave identities, including after manumission or emancipation, with specific consideration for the fluidity of such identities (for example “black”, “colored”, and “white” identities in the Atlantic world);

  • slave agency: the boundaries and opportunities in bondpeople’s attempts to redefine their bodies, identities, and status over time, or utilize the geography of slavery and freedom to their advantage (for example cultural practices that reclaimed slaves’ humanity, slave flight to free territories in an attempt to claim free status, intermarriage between free and slave, self-purchase, negotiations and legal proceedings for manumission, etc);

  • the development, successes and failures of abolitionism and antislavery in relevant world societies, and the effects that these movements had on slaving zone ideologies;

  • and the creation of legal and political frameworks that permitted, sustained, and/or abolished slavery and slave trades.

Registration is now open

Registration is now open for the international conference on slavery that we are organizing in the first week of June (see for more information). The costs for non-speakers are minimal: 20 euros for both days, or 10 euros for one day (mainly to cover catering costs). To register, please send an e-mail to Damian Pargas at with "SZ Registration" in the title. The registration deadline is 15 May 2015.

You can pay cash upon arrival (if so, please specify this in your e-mail) or you can transfer the registration fee to our bank account. The information you need to do this is as follows:

Bank name: Rabobank Nederland
IBAN: NL74RABO0102054266
Accountholder: Universiteit Leiden / Geesteswetenschappen

Please don’t forget to mention the following information!!
Congres: Slaving Zones
SAP 1530003023
Registration [your name]

Beyond the Conference: Leiden Slavery Studies Association (LSSA)

The ‘Slaving Zones’ conference will be the first biennial conference of the new Leiden Slavery Studies Association (LSSA), which is dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of slavery and post-slavery in any period and any geographical region. LSSA provides an interdisciplinary forum for slavery specialists working in various faculties and programs at Leiden University in order to streamline, support, and promote collaboration on teaching, research and outreach projects. It aligns with the research profile of Leiden Global Interactions and builds upon Leiden’s strong tradition in humanities and social-science scholarship on world migrations, globalization, and minority studies.

The goals of LSSA are to:

  • promote and streamline research and teaching on slavery at Leiden University
  • stimulate collaboration and knowledge transfer between slavery scholars at Leiden University
  • advance Leiden University’s international profile and expertise on slavery scholarship
  • organize events and serve as a contact point for public interest on slavery

Last Modified: 01-04-2015