The Luddites, without Condescension
A Conference on the 200th Anniversary
of the Frame-breakers’ Uprising
In the Spring of 2011 Birkbeck will host a one-day conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the uprising of the handloom weavers in the dawn of the industrial revolution under the command of the mythic General Ludd. Even though the movement was sparked by skilled artisans, “luddite” has ever since been a byword for technophobes facing backwards and mindless rejection of progress. The conference will gather historians of luddism and others interested in what in 1800 was called “the machinery question”, to consider not only the historical luddites, urban and rural, but also contemporary movements of direct resistance, north and south, to capitalist modernization – for example, anti-nuclear movements, opposition to agricultural transgenics, resistance to big dams. The concluding session will address the issue of modernity itself, its model of temporality and the assumption that history is future-directed.
Introduction by Iain Boal.
Session 1: Ludd, Rebecca and History from Below
Peter Linebaugh (Toledo and Midnight Notes) – The Luddites and the Atlantic commons
Discussion with audience, primed and moderated by Anna Davin (History Workshop)
Session 2: Modernization and Contemporary Movements of Resistance
Dave King (Corporatewatch) – The Luddites200 Project and the politics of technology today
Iain Boal (Birkbeck) – To put your bodies upon the gears: Some reflections on machines, sabotage and direct action
Discussion with activists and audience.
Session 3: Rebels Facing Backwards and the Dream of Modernity
T.J. Clark (Retort) – A Left with no Future
Esther Leslie (Birkbeck) – Response
Closing general discussion.