Spooner, Amelia

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

I specialize in the social and political history of labor law and economic thought in the French empire. I have broad interests in historical sociology and geography, comparative and transimperial histories, and theorizations of racial capitalism and social reproduction.

My dissertation is a historical study of legal and extralegal practices regulating labor in the French empire from the second abolition of slavery in 1848 to the First World War. It looks at the political, legal, and social project, led by state and private actors, to define and manage work and workers in four post-slavery colonies, and at the negotiations and contestations between the administrators, jurists, and employers formulating regulations and the workers to whom they applied, with day laborers and peasants on the front lines of resistance. I account for unevenness in how labor law devised in the metropole was applied and adapted, and in many cases contravened and abandoned, in Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and La Réunion. My research seeks to uncover how the regulation of work after slavery produced both objects – marketable commodities like sugar and rum, for instance – and particular social relations: racialized, gendered, and classed divisions of labor in the metropole and across French colonial space.
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.