21-23 October 2022
Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta

The Canadian Committee on Labour History gratefully acknowledges the work of the organizing committee who made this conference possible.  This committee included Rhonda Hinther, Kassandra Luciuk, Jim Naylor, Kirk Niergarth, Joan Sangster, Julia Smith and Charles Smith.  Thank you to the staff and faculty of Mount Royal University for hosting this event on Treaty 7 territory, the traditional homelands of the the Niitsitapi, Blackfoot Confederacy, which include the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations. In addition, the City of Calgary is home to Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. 

Challenging Labour

We live in challenging times. Given the powerful hold of neoliberal ideology and the difficulty of imagining alternatives to precarious labour, anti-union pressures, hardening borders, and wealth inequality, understanding the history of work and imagining a different future for work is ever more urgent yet ever more difficult.

This three-day symposium brings together scholars and activists with a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. Sessions will explore the history of coerced, paid, and unpaid labour; working-class art, cultures, and communities; politics, organizing, social movements, and unions; gender, race, ethnic, and sexual identities and struggles; colonialism, Indigenous peoples, and empire; theoretical frameworks and debates.

Over the next three days we invite participants to consider how our work might illuminate the following questions from the call for papers:

  • What is the relationship between capitalism, colonialism, and labour?
  • How have the conceptual categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality shaped labour histories? 
  • How can labour history effectively address multiple categories of work – volunteer, paid and unpaid – using concepts such as social reproduction, coerced labour, etc.?
  • How might labour history – in writing, debate, art, theory, teaching – facilitate discussion about social change and transformation? Is utopian thinking about labour still possible?