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Call for Applications - VSU 2013

Unfree Labour Revisited -
Practices and Public Controversies from Ancient to Present Times



VWST_rgb_100 ©VolkswagenStiftung

Funded by Volkswagen Foundation

his-logo ©Hamburger Institute for Social Research

and the Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences

Sunday, 01 September  (Arrival) – Thursday, 19 September 2013 (Departure)

Organizer: Prof. Dr. Klaus Weber / Dr. Norbert Cyrus (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)


Globalization has a dark side – the return and expansion of unfree labour. Regions inside and outside Europe have drawn benefits from the political and economic liberalisations of the past decades, but deregulation of labour markets and of financial operations have also widened social gaps and facilitated the expansion of shadow economies. The acceleration of capital flows has been accompanied by increased efforts of more affluent nations to keep labour migrants at bay. Irregular immigrants are prone to labour exploitation, while employment of unfree labour on a large scale is widespread in newly industrialising economies.

These trends are reflected by the popularity of a notion like ‘modern slavery’, used by UN organizations, governments and civil society protagonists, and suggest a sense of historical continuity and current criticism. This course offers room to reconsider historical manifestations of unfree labour – slavery, serfdom, peonage, forced labour in totalitarian regimes – in different cultural contexts (European, African, American, Asian), and to scrutinize coeval concepts and meanings and their transfer into modern public talk. Participants will deal with the often very blurred lines separating free and unfree labour and reflect the discourses justifying or challenging these practises from perspectives of historical and social sciences, economics and law. The comparative and interdisciplinary approach of this course will allow us to put the cherished abstraction ‘individual freedom’ in contrast with actual forms of labour, which are all ranging somewhere on the continuum between ‘free’ and ‘unfree’.

The issue is high on the agenda of scholars not only from the disciplines involved here. Recent publications have offered substantial overviews of the problem, yet always from the angle of a particular discipline, and mostly with a regional focus. This summer university shall provide an interdisciplinary forum for both younger and established researchers. It is also meant as an important element in the development of a related research focus at the Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences.

Core Course 1 - Prof. Dr. Klaus Weber: "Historical Practices and Discourse of Unfree Labour"

Core Course 2 - Dr. Norbert Cyrus: "Current Practices and Discourse of Unfree Labour"




Prof. Dr. Bridget Anderson (Oxford University)

Dr. Steffen Angenendt (German Institute for International and Security Affairs)

Dr. Norbert Cyrus (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)

Prof. Dr. Andreas Eckert (Humboldt University Berlin)

Frank Eisermann, M. A. (University Bremen)

Prof. Dr. Norbert Finzsch (University of Cologne)

Prof. Dr. Bernd-Stefan Grewe (University of Education Freiburg, Department of History)

Prof. Dr. Jacek Kochanowicz (Uniwersytet Warszawski / Central European University Budapest)

Dr. Johanna Wenckebach/ Clemens Sudhof M. A. (European University Viadrina)

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Martschukat (University Erfurt)

Prof. Dr. John O'Neill (The University of Manchester)

Dr. Magnus Ressel (Università degli Studi di Padova)

Prof. Dr. Marcel Velázquez Castro (Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima)

Dr. Dita Vogel (Network Migration in Europe / Hamburg Institute of International Economics)

Prof. Dr. Klaus Weber (European University Viadrina)

Dr. Jutta Wimmler (European University Viadrina)


Target audience

This summer university is targeting at doctoral students and at advanced MA students from the fields of

  • history (ancient and modern)
  • social sciences (sociology, anthropology, ethnology ...),
  • economics,
  • political sciences,
  • legal studies or law,
  • and other relevant fields of cultural studies.

It is aiming particularly at those young scholars already carrying out their own research related to the contents of the summer university. They shall be offered the opportunity to meet fellow researchers of their own cohort, and established university teachers and researchers from Europe and abroad. The objective is to establish contacts and networks which shall be helpful with their present and future projects.


Number of participants

There are 40 places for which we would like to have approximatly 25 international participants and c. 15 from th European University Viadrina or other German Universities.


Teaching and Syllabus

During the Summer School a variety of teaching formats will be applied, in order to convey knowledge and encourage interaction, including course teaching with interactive elements, classical lectures by invited speakers, seminars, workshops, and field visits. The younger researchers will actively contribute to the program, offering their own papers in a ‘Research Forum’, and organising informal peer meetings.

Core courses: The Summer School program is building on two Core Courses, introducing to the basic terms and concepts of unfree labour, from the perspectives of historical studies and of social science. In order to encourage interdisciplinary penetration of the subject, both Core Courses are interlocked by their contents, in looking at the same, or at similar subjects from both historical and social science viewpoints.

Lectures: Particular knowledge on specific issues of past and present manifestations of unfree labour will be introduced and deepened in lectures given by invited experts.

Seminars: Following the lecture, most speakers will offer a seminar that allows a more interactive communication. Participants will actively contribute to the discussions and get in contact with experts on a more advanced way. The audience will prepare for seminars and for sessions of the Core Courses by reading introductory texts, specifically proposed by each speaker.

Workshops: The program includes a number of workshops with a focus on methodological and practical questions. In this format, participants will be offered the opportunity to reflect on or acquire knowledge on the basis of more empirically based examples and practical exercises.

Field visits: In order to make familiar with current perceptions of unfree labour in the German public, the participants are invited by protagonists involved in the political or practical handling of the problem of unfree labour. We have the approval from four institutions to visit. The International Labour Organization will introduce to the transnational struggle against forced labour. The Berlin Senate for Labour, i.e. the federal state ministry, will introduce to current political strategies to combat unfree labour and to promote decent work. The German Institute for Human Rights will make the audience familiar with its action against trafficking and forced labour. The non-governmental organization Ban Ying will introduce to social work with victims of trafficking and of labour exploitation labelled ‘modern slavery’.

Research Forum: Younger researchers are invited to present a paper on planned, on-going or finished work (c. 20 mins), to be discussed by the Summer School audience.

Self-organized meetings: The program will include explicitly marked spaces reserved for self-organized meetings of participants. Here, participants with similar research interests may discuss methodological or theoretical questions, and develop more sustainable networks. The Summer School organizers will encourage such meetings throughout the event.

Excursion: An excursion to the memorial of Sachsenhausen, the site of a concentration camp during national-socialist rule, will encourage to develop sensitivity for the spatial and historical orders relevant in every manifestation of unfree labour.

These diverse formats will be integrated by the systematic application of a Summer School curriculum which includes some basic didactical instruments and a structure of communication and learning. Participants have to prepare for the Summer School by reading of key texts selected by the organisers and delivered as a Reader by June 2013. Young researchers have to prepare two essays on selected issues in which own research interests and experience are reflected. Moreover, during the months of the run-up to the event, all participants are required to observe if at all, and in which ways, issues of unfree labour are raised in media and public debates in their place of living. They are meant to synthesize a short presentation of these observation, to be offered as a first input for the Summer School. This exercise urges participants to offer a talk at the very beginning and will thus help to ‘melt the ice’ among the members of this newly assembled group. Moreover, the exercise shall make explicit how unfree labour is framed in the respective place of living and offer evidence of different framings of unfree labour in different contexts, due to specific historical, cultural and social backgrounds.

In order to provide continuity and back up learning progress, the Core Courses will serve as anchor meetings open to discuss any controversial issue.

Please find the current version of the "Course Schedule VSU 2013" as a pdf-file in the teaser-box on the right side of this page.


Certificate and ECTS Credits

The Viadrina Summer University Certificate requires active participation in both core courses, two seminars, one workshop, three lectures and one excursion.

Students are entitled to gain up to 18 ECTS credits. This requires one seminar paper on a topic of the participant's choice (related to the program, 25 pages) = 9 ECTS, 2 essays on chosen topics (related to the program) = 3 ECTS each, participation in the excursion to Sachsenhausen = 3 ECTS.


Course fees and fellowships

Participants from abroad:

The Viadrina Summer University (VSU) provides 25 fellowships for foreign participants. These fellowships cover tuition fee, accommodation and travel costs.


Participants from German Universities:

We regret that no fellowships can be granted to students from German universities.

They will cover travel, accommodation and tuition fee  from their own funds.

(Tuition fee - €100 to be paid in advance - includes: course material, excursion and other costs related to the course program.)



Participants are invited to stay in modern student apartments with single rooms and modern facilities in Słubice, Poland. This small border town is situated right on the opposite bank of the River Oder. The price of a single room per person for 18 nights will be c. 130 Euro.  Grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants are all to be found within walking distance.



The Viadrina



Photo: Winfried Mausolf

The European University Viadrina was founded in 1991, reanimating the distinguished tradition of the first State University of Brandenburg (Alma Mater Viadrina, 1506-1811). Due to its unique geography and history the Viadrina plays an important role as a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. The University’s objective is to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on European and global issues, and to establish academic relationships with many  countries and regions inside and outside Europe. Small classes, modern facilities and an academic staff of renowned scholars provide a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students of economics, law, the social sciences and humanities.



Frankfurt (Oder)

Frankfurt (Oder) is situated in the very heart of Europe by the River Oder, forming the border with neighbouring Poland. The city is well connected with Berlin, the German Capital; the ride on commuter trains takes just one hour. Frankfurt (Oder) has a population of approximately 59,200. Historical buildings such as the medieval Town Hall and St. Mary’s church display Frankfurt’s past as a powerful and rich trading town, member of the Hanseatic League.
Wo liegt FFO

The lively Polish neighboring town of Słubice is within ten minutes walking distance from the university. Frankfurt is a green town, beautifully located by the river with a promenade, parks and an attractive surrounding countryside.




Deadline for all applications is 30th April 2013. Decisions of acceptance will be announced by 15th May 2013 via e-mail.


Applicants need to produce a degree of BA or MA and exhibit outstanding achievements in at least one of the following disciplines:

  • history (ancient and modern)
  • social sciences (sociology, anthropology, ethnology ...),
  • economics,
  • political sciences,
  • legal studies or law,
  • and other relevant fields of cultural studies.

More advanced applicants (post graduates, PhD students) are expected to explicate a specific research interest related to the issue of ‘Unfree Labour’, referring to the research hypothesis, its relevance, and the methodology envisaged. All applicants are required to submit a letter of reference from an established university professor.


Language skills: English language proficiency (Level C1 of The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)

Please send us:

1. Application form  ( word 97-2003pdf )

2. Curriculum Vitae

3. Letter of Motivation (one page)

4. 1 Letter of Recommendation (university professor or supervisor)

5. Proof of English language proficiency (Level C1 of The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Applications by ordinary mail only. All applications have to be done in English.

If you have any questions don‘t hesitate to contact Mr Robert Simon:


Frequently asked question concerning the application:

As a proof of English proficiency we accept:

  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) or better,
  • Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) grade A,
  • IELTS with at least 6.5 points,
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) with at least 76 points,
  • PTE General, level 4 or better,
  • Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) with at least 490 points,
  • UNIcert III or better,
  • Versant with at least 69 points,
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT with at least 110 points,
  • Also acceptable would be if students prove (by diploma or transcript) that they have been studying at university in an English-speaking country for at least six months.




European University Viadrina
Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences
Prof. Dr. Klaus Weber
(Coordinator VSU: Mrs Kathrin Goeritz)
P.O. Box 1786
15207 Frankfurt (Oder)


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