Spooner, Amelia

Field: Modern Europe; Advisor: Saada; Year: 2017

I specialize in the social and political history of law in the French empire. Methodologically my work is informed by historical sociology and critical geography, comparative and transimperial histories, and theorizations of racial capitalism and social reproduction.

My dissertation, tentatively titled “Formally Free: Regulating Labor After Slavery in the French Empire, 1830s–1870s,” looks at the legal and extralegal project to define and manage work and workers in French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Réunion Island after the second abolition of slavery. The project examines the negotiations and contestations between administrators, jurists, and employers formulating regulations and the workers to whom they ostensibly applied. I account for unevenness in how labor law devised in the metropole was applied and adapted, and in many cases contravened and abandoned, in these four post-slavery contexts. My research seeks to uncover how the regulation of “free labor” produced both marketable commodities and particular relations of domination: racialized, gendered, and classed divisions among workers across French colonial space.

My work has been supported by the Alliance-Council for European Studies’ Pre-dissertation Fellowship, the Chateaubriand Fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, and the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship.

Before returning to New York for graduate school, I lived in Paris for seven years, where I taught history and geography at a French high school and academic English for the social sciences at the University of Paris-Dauphine.

Prospective students and any others interested in my work are warmly invited to be in touch.