Cooperation under the Premise of Imperialism

27.–29.06.2013, International Conference, Bern, Switzerland

The specific concern of the conference is to take a closer look at the structures, diplomacies, symbolic procedures, and discourses of cooperative imperial systems respectively the different ways, patterns and networks of brokerage that they rely on. As these problems can best be analysed in a comparative approach and by using a long-term perspective, papers on different imperial spaces and societies as well as time frames of imperialistic expansion are welcome. The following issues should be addressed specifically:

Agents of cooperation: The main focus with respect to "Herrschaftskolonien" (colonies with a large indigenous population) will be laid on the most important partners, particularly traditional local elites and rulers. However, we will also analyse the role of cooperators on a lower level, such as informants, interpreters, professional civil service agents and mercenaries. What were the push and pull factors found within the network of cooperation and how much influence could indigenous elites, informants, interpreters, etc. maintain? With regard to questions of political and economic interests, identity and cultural adaption ("creolisation"), the European negotiating partner should be taken into account too. Were the "white" settlers, as Robinson claimed, really the "ideal collaborators"? Since cooperation was not yet thoroughly regulated and relied on rituals of face-to-face negotiation during the period of early imperial encounters, the foreign representatives should also be analysed in their different roles as intermediaries, advisers and imperial agents. The crossing of cultural boundaries, and more importantly inter-marriage and conversion, could evoke multiple identities and transform a foreign representative into a double agent or even someone working for the "other" side. Many contemporary imperial administrators therefore suspected these intermediaries of "going native". Could, on the other hand, the indigenous cooperator look at the foreign political agents as a trustworthy adviser or was he rather an opponent whom they always resented in their hearts? Finally, it is important to raise the question of who benefited from imperial cooperation and who paid for it all.