The Intellectual History of Labor

The Journal of the History of Ideas and the JHI Blog invite graduate students from all institutions, disciplines, and stages of their degree to propose papers for our fifth-annual Graduate Student Symposium to be held via video conference on Saturday, September 9, 2023. The event aims to convene a diverse group of graduate students from different disciplines working on a variety of topics, periods, genres, and regions.

The 2023 symposium will explore and historicize the complex, multivalent, and ever-evolving concepts of labor and work. The JHI Blog welcomes paper proposals that rethink labor as a central, creative concept explaining critical problems of the past, with potential to improve our future.

Papers might engage with such questions as:

·   What would an intellectual history of labor look like? How have different intellectual traditions conceptualized and interpreted labor?

·   How can we historicize the divisions between different forms of labor? How should we write histories including various forms of labor: domestic, women’s, enslaved, and others?

·   How is the commodification of labor related to the emergence of global capitalism and empire? How has anticapitalist thought criticized waged work, domination, and exploitation?

·   How has labor been related to political and social divisions, hierarchies, and conflicts? What has been the role of labor movements in the development of political ideas? How can creative and ecological labor bring forth a socially just world and resist the Capitalocene?

Proposals should be no more than 500 words long and make clear how the paper responds to this call, the argument it intends to make, and the source base. Please also acknowledge the project’s context (e.g., is it a seminar paper, a dissertation chapter, article to be submitted to a journal, a fledgling idea, etc.).

Please send your paper proposal along with a CV in a Word doc file to The deadline for submission is 24 April 2023. We will notify selected participants by 15 May 2023.

The symposium asks more of participants than typical conferences do, and hopes to provide more as well. Before the event, each participant will pre-circulate an article-length paper (7,000–9,000 words). The event will consist of several sessions conceived as “workshops.” Participants are expected to read and annotate one another’s papers before the event, to inform and promote lively, substantive discussion and provide suggestions for revision and continued research.

All questions can be directed to the JHI Blog editors at