Dr. Claude Chevaleyre

Researcher and Coordinator of Research Group "Beyond Slavery: Dependency in Asian History"

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Genscherallee 2
D-53113 Bonn


Research Fellow
Institute of East Asian Studies, ENS-Lyon

Claude Chevaleyre.jpg
© C. Chevaleyre

Academic Profile

At the crossroads of Chinese studies and labor history, my research addresses the global history of human bondage in Early Modern China (15th-19th centuries). It covers two main research fields. A first aspect of my research explores the articulations and interactions between norms, concepts, and practices of bondage. By confronting various normative sources (editions of the penal code, jurisprudence, legal exegesis, imperial proclamations, but also sources of domestic law and local norms) with the law in practice (i.e., judicial cases), I intend to lift the veil on Chinese conceptions of “unfree labor” and dependency, their evolutions over time, and their geographical disparities. To do so, I focus not only on the category that served as the conceptual matrix which many relations of dependency were built on (i.e.; “slaves” or “bondservants”, called nubi 奴婢in Chinese), but also on the labor and family identities situated in the grey zone between what we usually call “freedom” and “unfreedom” (or between “honorability” and “demeaning” to use Chinese concepts). I therefore also have a particular interest in local labor regimes, their logics and organization, and the forms of labor mobilization and immobilization in Early Modern Chinese context. A second aspect of my research concerns human trafficking in Early modern China and East Asia. Here, I attempt to reconstruct the interregional networks of human trafficking in China and identify their operators, sources, destinations, and markets, as well as their transnational connections with neighboring areas of East Asia and beyond. This project will result in the elaboration of a database that should help understand the local dynamics and global interactions of human trafficking in China.

Both aspects of my research are interrelated and converge in an overarching interest for the semantics of dependency. By looking at concepts and practices of “unfree” labor, dependency, and human trafficking in China, my research also approaches Eastern Asia as a normative space within which strong conceptual proximities gave rise to highly singular and differentiated forms of bondage and dependency, ones that still need to be explored in a comparative and transnational perspective. By looking at these phenomena from China and Eastern Asia, my research also questions the singularity of Western experiences, as well as the relevance of categories elaborated from Western historical contexts as universal concepts to think dependency as a global phenomenon.

Ph.D. in Chinese history, EHESS: “Research on the Bondage Institution in Late Imperial China”

M.A. in Chinese history, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, EHESS, Paris, France

M.A. in Chinese language and civilization, INALCO, Paris, France

B.A. in Chinese language and civilization, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, INALCO, Paris, France

since 2019
Researcher and Coordinator of Research Group "Beyond Slavery: Dependency in Asian History", BCDSS, Germany

since 2018
Research Fellow, Institute of East Asian Studies, ENS-Lyon, France

Lecturer, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, INALCO, Paris, France

Postdoctoral Fellow, International Institute of Social History, IISH, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Lecturer, Université Paris-Diderot, Paris, France

Postdoctoral Fellow, École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), Paris, France

Researcher, EHESS, Centre de recherches historiques, Paris, France

Research Associate, Chair of Modern Chinese history, Collège de France, Paris, France 

Two doctoral dissertation prizes (Chancellerie des Universités de Paris & Association française d’études chinoises)

Asia Slavery Database project member

Slavery in the Indian Ocean World and beyond network member

Free/Unfree Labor France-Stanford program member

Scientific committee member of the Travail Libre/travail forcé. Contraintes locales et dynamiques globales  research program

Indian Ocean World: Forms of bondage in the Indian Ocean. Origins, Structure and transformations research program member

Legalizing Space in China research program member

since 2016
Co-editor (with P. Ismard, B. Rossi and C. Vidal) of an Histoire mondiale de l’esclavage (Seuil edition, 2021)

Research seminar on the Social, economic and institutional history of early modern China, with Luca Gabbiani (EHESS)

since 2015
Co-editor of the Social Histories of Work in Asia series (Amsterdam UP)

Board Member of the French Association for Chinese Studies

  • Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for Scholarly Exchanges doctoral fellowship
  • French Ministry for Education and Research Area Studies research grant

Worlds of Related Coercions in Work

The COST Action "Worlds of Related Coercions in Work" (WORCK) calls for a radical change of perspective in labour history. It links the stories of work and production with those of violence, expropriation and marginalisation.

By studying the persistence and transformations of coercion and bondage across gender orders, geographic regions and historical eras, WORCK shifts the focus of labour history: Neither the male-breadwinner model nor the free wage labourer or the capitalist mode of production can form the blueprint for this new history of WORCK. Instead, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of coercion in all work relations throughout history is the pivot of this endeavour.

Members: Dr. Claude Chevaleyre; Dr. Christian de Vito; Dr. Hanne Østhus

More information

  • The Abolition of Slavery and the Status of Slaves in Late Imperial China. In Human Bondage and Rights in Afro-Eurasia from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day, edited by Alessandro Stanziani, Gwyn Campbell.
  • 2017. Histoire oubliée de la rivière Lai de Zhou Tingying. In Écrire l’histoire 17 , 44–55.
  • 2017. Asservir pour punir: La nature pénale du statut d’esclave dans la Chine des Ming. In Extrême-Orient, Extrême-Occident 41, 93–117.
  • 2017. Derrière les murs de la Cité interdite. In L’Histoire 431, 50–53.
  • 2017. Under Pressure and out of Respect for Human Dignity: The 1910 Chinese Abolition. In  In Distant Ripples of the British Abolitionist Wave, edited by Myriam Cottias, Marie-Jeanne Rossignol. Trenton.
  • 2013. Qubie liupin: 17 shiji Zhongguo de nubi shenfen, falü yu sifa duidai” 区别流品: 17 世纪中国的奴婢身份、法律与司法对待. [The status, law and legal treatment of slaves in seventeenth century China]. In Falü shi yiping. [Legal History Studies], edited by Zhou Dongping, Zhu Teng, 164–170. Beijing.
  • 2013. Acting as Master and Bonservant. Considerations on Status, Identites, and the Nature of ‘Bondservitude’ in Late Ming China. In Labour, Coercion and Economic Growth in Eurasia, Seventeenth–Twentieth Centuries, edited by A. Stanziani, 237–272. Leiden.
  • 2012. Chine 2011–2012: La deuxième économie mondiale à la croisée des chemins. In Encyclopédie de l’État du Monde. Paris.
  • 2010. Étienne Balázs (1905–1963). Œuvres, projets, appréciations. In Actualité d’Étienne Balázs (1905–1963): Témoignages et réflexions pour un centenaire, edited by Pierre-Étienne Will, Isabelle Ang, 111–130 Paris.
  • 2006. Translation (Chinese to French) of Lau Nap-yin, “Droit et famille en Chine à l’époque des Song (960–1279). In Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 6, 1377–1446.
Wird geladen