‘Subjects of Empire’ Workshop

On 28-29 August 2023, a wonderful group of scholars gathered in Rome for a workshop entitled: ‘Subjects of Empire: Testing Subjecthood in the Nineteenth-Century British Anglosphere’. Co-hosted by Prof. Amanda Nettelbeck (ACU Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences) and Prof. Porscha Fermanis (UCD), the workshop investigated how ideas of British subjecthood—and, as its corollary, ideas of imperial citizenship—were deployed in the burgeoning nineteenth-century British Anglosphere, and how changing social or cultural conceptions of subjecthood informed legal shifts. In so doing, it sought to address larger questions about how perceived attributes of subjecthood in the British Empire interacted with legal change over the course of the nineteenth century. How did the expansion of subject status to ‘new’ colonial subjects shift the discourse of natural-born subjecthood, trigger disputes about allegiance, and/or test the limits of imperial jurisdiction? How did assertions of subjecthood by would-be subjects help to renegotiate its legal boundaries? How did different subjects enlist the vocabularies of subjecthood in ways that exceeded systems of governance or aspired to influence the contours of legal rights? And how did precarious subjecthood help to create the conditions for new discourses of liberal imperial citizenship? The workshop established the enormous flexibility that shaped positions and practices of subjecthood in the mobile age of empire. It also demonstrated that British subject status was not just defined by a bounded set of rights and obligations, but produced through performances of identification and allegiance, and through racialized disputes about sameness and difference.

The workshop programme is set out below:

Monday 28 August

9.00 – 9.45: Shaunnagh Dorsett: Crafting Māori Subjecthood: Governance Practices and Exceptional Regimes in Crown Colony
New Zealand

9.45 – 10.30: Amanda Nettelbeck: Recalibrating British Subjecthood after Slavery: Indigenous and Indentured Subjects of Empire

10.30 – 11.00: Morning tea

11.00 – 11.45: Catie Peters: Afro-Asian Histories After Abolition in the South Atlantic

11.45 – 12.30: Sascha Auerbach: Female Subjecthood and the Ecology of the Modern State in the British Empire, 1812-1870

12.30-1.30: Lunch

1.30 – 2.15: Onur Ulas Ince: From ‘Civilization’ to ‘Race’: The Political Economy of Imperial Subjecthood

2.15 – 3.00: Porscha Fermanis: The Anthropology of Citizenship: Constructing Citizen-Subjects in the Straits Chinese Magazine

3.00 – 3.15: Afternoon tea

3.15 – 4.00: Sukanya Banerjee: Loyalty, Rebellion, and the Colonial Subject

4.00-4.45: Jan C. Jansen: The Regulation of Alienness and Belonging in the Age of Emancipation: The British Caribbean in
the 1820s and 1830s

7pm: Dinner booking

Tuesday 29 August

9.00 – 9.45: Jessica Lake: ‘Every young maiden is born a citizen’: Women’s Suffrage, Slander and Subjecthood in New Jersey at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

9.45 – 10.30: Alecia Simmons: Degraded National Citizen or Imperious British Subject?: Race, Legal Status, and Identity in the Defamation Actions of James Lucas

10.30 – 11.00: Morning tea

11.00 – 11.45: Stuart Ward: The Moving Frontier of British Subjecthood

12.45-12.30: Group discussion

12.30-1.30: Lunch and departure

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