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History

Chinese Coolies, Human Rights and the Limits of Liberal Freedom in an Age of Empire

Date: 5:00pm PST November 12, 2013 Location: Miller Center for the Humanities, Room 414

Miller Center for the Humanities, Room 414

Come join the History department for the first in a series of workshops on faculty research in progress.  All participants will be expected to read the paper prior to the workshop.  Participants will critique and discuss the paper, but there will be no formal presentation of the paper. 

The first workshop entitled, “Chinese Coolies, Human Rights and the Limits of Liberal Freedom in an Age of Empire”, will be presented by Professor Elliott Young.  This paper explores the relationship between nineteenth century human rights ideas and imperialism in the context of the debates surrounding the Chinese “coolie” trade.  Young argues that British and American liberal notions of freedom and natural rights served as the justification for interventions around the globe.  The paper focuses on a case of a mutiny in 1871 on a French ship, the Nouvelle Penelope, in which the Chinese coolies murdered the captain and crew.  The British judge in Hong Kong exonerated the leader of the mutiny arguing that murder was justified in the quest for liberty.  Young shows how human rights discourse is not just a smokescreen for economic interests but lies at the very foundation of the liberal imperial project.

Contact Debbie Richman at drichman@lclark.edu to acquire a copy of the paper in advance of the workshop.

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