Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow

As part of the year-long Mellon Foundation-funded Sawyer Seminar, “Global Slaveries, Fugitivity, and the Afterlives of Unfreedom: Interconnections in Comparative Dialogue” that will take place at Indiana University, Bloomington, overthe 2023-2024 academic year, we invite applications from any field in the social sciences and humanities for a one-year Postdoctoral Fellowship. Selected Fellow will receive a $51,500 salary plus benefits.

The Sawyer Seminar explores and emphasizes the importance of studying the global interconnectedness of histories of slavery in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific worlds, foregrounding how their evolutions shaped processes of racialization and the advancement of capitalism. It also draws attention to the various forms of fugitivity that challenged systems of slavery by acts of withdrawal and contestation. Temporally, the Seminar is grounded in relation to three key moments and processes. Firstly, Europe’s colonization of the Americas during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the influence this had on the development of the  Atlantic and Transpacific slave trades and the emergence of capitalism. Secondly, the different histories of abolitionism ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and the forms of coerced labor practices that emerged subsequently. Finally, contemporary memorializations of slavery, unfreedom, and fugitivity, particularly in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement and in light of various forms of indigenous activism in the Americas and around the world.

Understanding slavery, unfree labor practices, and fugitivity as complex, interconnected global processes with afterlives that continue to shape discourses of equity and representation today requires a comparative and interdisciplinary methodology focused on local particularities and specificities. It requires, equally, engaging broader concerns about defining conceptual language and analytical frameworks that bring Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific slaveries into relationwith one another. The Seminar highlights various forms of fugitivity that developed in Mauritius and throughout the Americas and considers different forms of coerced labor practices such as bondage, indenture, kangani, and ‘coolie’ labor in places such as India and South Africa. We seek, moreover, to illuminate the interconnections between regions through thematically and spatially grounded macro- and micro-geographical analyses. These analyses foreground the global linkages of marketplaces  and transit zones, the centrality of port cities, and the histories of commodity production and  exchange – particularly involving sugar, tea, cotton, tobacco, and rice – that have indelibly shaped the modern world and are deeply enmeshed in histories of slavery and unfree labor practices.

The central questions addressed by the Seminar are organized around three main lines of inquiry. We consider, in the first instance, current developments in the historiography of slavery and unfreedom across geographies and ask how comparative and relational studies can help enrich, bring nuance, and expand existing, and in some cases longstanding, explanatory narratives. Our second line of enquiry is informed by a series of conceptual concerns pertaining to contemporary theorizations of racialization as a process of socio-racial classification and hierarchization with deep roots in colonial regimes of governance of black and brown bodies, particularly  in relation to gender, slavery, and labor. A third set of issues that helps anchor the dialogues fostered by the Seminar stems from the growing awareness of the limits that fragmentary archival sources have for tracing the contestations and afterlives of slavery and unfreedom.

We thus seek candidates whose work aligns with these themes and who would benefit from active engagement with the speakers and events that the Seminar will be hosting in Bloomington in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024. Apart from expecting that the Fellow will pursue research activities associated with their primary area – as demonstrated by presentations and published work – they will also be expected to participate fully in the Seminar’s programming for the academic year, which will include such activities as leading reading groups and serving as a commentator at workshop and conference panels.

We invite applications from qualified candidates who are at the beginning of their academic careers but who do not yethold a tenure-track academic position. A Ph.D. is required. Candidates who do not hold a Ph.D. but expect to by June 20, 2023, must provide a letter from the chair of their dissertation committee, confirming the proposed timeline for completion.

Indiana University is an equal employment and affirmative action employer and a provider of ADA services. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment based on individual qualifications. Indiana University prohibits discrimination based on age, ethnicity, color, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, national origin, disability status or protected veteran status. Applications from women and minorities are especially encouraged.

Interested candidates should review the application requirements and submit their application  at: Questions regarding the position or application process can be directed to: Professors Pedro Machado (Department of History; and Olimpia Rosenthal (Department ofSpanish and Portuguese;

Applications should include the following materials:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Research statement (maximum of 3,000 words describing how the dissertation and/or current research project intersects with the main themes of the Sawyer Seminar; also describes work/s in progress, professional goals, and plans for publication)
  • Writing sample
  • Diversity statement
  • Three letters of recommendation

Applications received by April 15, 2023, will receive full consideration, but the search will remain open until the position is filled.

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