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“'Contact' Embodied: German Colonialism, New Guinean Women, and the Everyday Exploitation of a Labor Force," by Emma Thomas, Ph.D.
The 2020 Fritz Stern prize lecture will be delivered by Emma Thomas for her dissertation, “Contested Labors: New Guinean Women and the German Colonial Indenture, 1884-1914." The prize is kindly sponsored by the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

This talks explores the histories of indigenous women and their participation in the indentured labor force that formed the foundation of German colonial rule in New Guinea (1884-1914). Drawing on an archive that includes imperial ordinances, European travel writings, photographs, and colonial court records, this talk reveals the significance of women’s labors to Germany’s colonial project, and the myriad exploitations that accompanied it. Homing in on embodied sites of colonial “contact,” it demonstrates how New Guinean women negotiated European claims to their laboring, racialized, and often eroticized bodies, and confronted German efforts to align local understandings of gender, sexuality, family, and labor with imperial concerns.

May 14, 2021 10:00 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Emma Thomas
Emma Thomas is a historian of modern Germany, Europe, and the Pacific, who focuses on transnational histories of gender, sexuality, and race in the German empire. She earned her PhD from the University of Michigan in 2019. She will commence a postdoctoral fellowship at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies in 2021 (pandemic permitting). Based on her dissertation, Thomas’s current book project examines the social, cultural, political, and intimate worlds of New Guinean women under German colonial rule. This project sheds new light on the significance of New Guinean women’s productive, sexual, and reproductive labors to fundamental questions of colonial governance embedded in evolving and contested understandings of race, gender, and sexuality.
Kenneth Ledford
Professor Ledford is Chair of the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University and Co-Director of the Max Kade Center for German Studies. He holds appointments both in the Department of History and the School of Law. He teaches German history, German and European legal history, the history of European legal professions, historical methods, and the history of European Union law. His main research interests include the intersection of legal thought and middle-class formation in Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries, which results in his focus on the study of legal professions and legal professionals. He is author of From General Estate to Special Interest: German Lawyers 1878-1933 (Cambridge University Press), numerous articles on the history of German law and legal professions, and is currently completing a book manuscript tentatively titled Prussian Judges and the Rule of Law in Germany, 1848-1914.