The "Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies" (BCDSS) is a research cluster at the University of Bonn within the framework of the Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments. Our cluster is a joint project of researchers from many different backgrounds, including anthropology, archaeology, Asian and Islamic Studies, comparative religious studies, German medieval literature, history, and theology.

We examine all forms of societal, group-related, and individual hierarchization and oppression. Despite the many different forms that human bondage and coercion have taken over time, academic debates in the modern West primarily focused on the most extreme one: slavery; and in particular the trans-Atlantic experience of slavery which was closely entangled with the creation of the modern West. “Slavery” and “freedom” are highly ideologically charged terms, though. This is why we decided to employ a more neutral terminology, and so move beyond the binary opposition of “slavery versus freedom”. Instead, we suggest “strong asymmetrical dependency” as a new key concept, which includes debt bondage, convict labor, tributary labor, servitude, serfdom, and domestic work as well as forms of wage labor and various types of clientage and patronage.

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