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Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies

The interdisciplinary and comparative Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) will implement a comprehensive and lasting research network which focuses on the agency of individuals as well as groups within asymmetrical structures of dependency generated by social orders. Different forms of dependencies, which can be situated on a continuum ranging from slavery to freedom, have existed throughout human history around the entire world. It was only in the Western hemisphere (in the form of Atlantic slavery) that a coherent type of slavery legally sanctioned by the state emerged as the basis for a number of empires, a type of slavery that simultaneously shaped the economies of the emerging nations of the "West" – including its colonies. The topic of Atlantic Slavery has given rise to a particularly thriving research field in the USA. Since the 1960s, a vast field of research has developed around Atlantic slavery in the US, as well as in other historiographies (such as Brazil). These activities have had an immense impact on contemporary slavery research. Nevertheless, in other major regions of the world (such as the Arab world, China, India, Central Asia, Siberia, the region around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific and pre-Columbian America), various forms of slavery have existed with unique legal rules. Although these forms of slavery partly still exist today, they have never existed in the compact way that is characteristic of slavery in the Western hemisphere; therefore, they were easily hidden by being embedded within local cultural or religious codes. The global field of dependency/slavery research requires an expansion towards the Eastern hemisphere, Africa and pre-Columbian America. This will not only significantly broaden the international debate, but will also make it possible to record the specific developments within these regions for the first time. In addition to closing major research gaps of the field, the Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies (BCDSS) will also provide new information that can help to stimulate the international scientific debate on the topic of dependency and slavery.
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