Helena Rose ■ Online conference call for papers: Imperial Inequalities: States, Empires, Taxation

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03 and 04 December 12:00 – 17:30 GMT (tbc)

Co-organised with Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Sussex and Julia McClure, University of Glasgow

An analysis of inequality stemming from Imperialism and an exploration of reparation pathways

Colonial histories remind us, time and again, that the poverty of what comes to be understood as the global south and the wealth of the global north are intrinsically connected. That is, the very same historical processes that generated the wealth of European countries are the ones that made other places poor. During the phases of imperialism from the sixteenth century onwards, European countries extracted revenues and resources through formal and informal channels and spent this money often on domestic welfare and infrastructure. The precise value of the ‘colonial subsidy’ to European states and their citizens is incalculable or, at least, no attempt has been made at the global level to attempt to calculate it.

During the age of European global empires, European countries imposed tax regimes both nationally and across their imperial hinterlands that have also contributed to the establishment of trends of inequality that continue through till today. This conference will bring together leading academics to present new research highlighting the linkages between empires, nation states, taxation and resource extraction, and the resulting inequalities in polities and welfare systems experienced as a consequence of this mass extraction.

The conference will also explore where society and institutions can go from here to begin to address the centuries of damage and to investigate how reparations could begin to address some of this damage. This event will explore the following themes:  

  • To what extent has the European project of public expenditure on welfare been made possible by imperial extraction?
  • What role has been played by promoting dependent territories as ‘tax havens’, in the more recent period of extraction, and how has this damaged those territories as well as others?
  • How do tax laws, which can themselves be understood as having imperial legacies, continue to shape inequality trends?
  • What sort of reparations could conceivably address the scale of damage created from imperial extraction, and how can taxes be collected and redistributed to begin to mitigate the economic damage created?

Call for papers:

This conference will focus on qualitative and quantitative research that explores the themes of empire, taxation, inequality and reparations. In addition to the range of papers already in preparation for a forthcoming volume, the organisers wish to invite original, high-quality papers for presentation in the following areas:

  1. Reparations through taxation: the potential role of different types of taxation, for example on wealth or on financial transactions, to contribute to reparations
  2.  ‘Plan B’:  alternative development paths for UK territories and others where a ‘tax haven’ business model was effectively imposed by the imperial power, and potential reparations for the damage done
  3. Tax, race and gender: to what extent are tax systems, now and historically, designed around a largely white, male landowning class, and what are the past and present implications? Are tax systems largely ‘colourblind’ and ‘genderblind’, or is disaggregated data used to inform policies and tax administration – and how does this affect inequalities?

Please submit abstracts of up to 500 words, along with the required supporting information, using our online application form. The deadline for submissions of abstracts is 11 September. The review panel will communicate decisions by 25 September. Full papers will be due by 30 October.

Registration will open when the preliminary programme is published in October 2020. More information will be published in due course on our website. For any queries, please email [email protected].

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