About us

Antonio De Lauri

Antonio De LauriAntonio De Lauri is Senior Researcher at the Chr. Michelsen Institute of Bergen. Between 2014 and 2016 he held a ERC-313737 temporary position of Assistant Professor at the University of Milan-Bicocca, where he taught Cultures and Societies of the Middle East. He was a Rechtskulturen fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien (Humboldt University and Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin) in 2012/2013, having previously been a recipient of the Fernand Braudel International Fellowship for Experienced Researchers (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris). In 2010, he was a visiting scholar at the Department of Anthropology of Columbia University (New York). From 2005 to 2015 he carried out fieldwork in Afghanistan, with a focus on legal reconstruction, judicial practice, human rights, war and humanitarian interventionism. As member of the ERC- 313737 team, he studied dependence, debt and freedom in Pakistan.





Research project: “Debt Bondage and Freedom in Pakistan.

My research focuses on the historical changes of bondage and labour exploitation in the Pakistani brick kiln industry. Through diachronic and inter-regional comparison, Pakistan emerges as a fertile ground where to study the unexplored relationship between debt bondage and emancipation and the building/up of social hierarchies and related ideologies of inclusion/exclusion that stem from previous histories of subjection. The project has made the attempt to move beyond widely accepted dichotomies such as bondage vs. emancipation, personal dependence vs. freedom. It addresses the interconnected social mechanisms that affect individual and collective life trajectories caught in the midst of conflicting values and alternative social projects. The very concepts of “person” and “future” are at stake as well as the different moralities related to the idea of “being human”.




Working Papers

SWAB-WPS 1/2015

Title: “Debtor forever”. Debt and bondage in Afghan and Pakistani brick kilns

Author: Antonio De Lauri

Number of pages: 28

Download: SWAB-WPS 1/2015

Moving beyond the isolated-victim paradigm typical of most modern slavery discourses, this paper takes into account the “voice” of both the bonded workers and the kiln owners in order to understand the social nature of debt bondage. I revisit comments from interviews and conversations collected in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2014 and 2015. Although the history of labour exploitation in these two countries deserves individual attention, my goal is to underline the transversal elements that are salient in both contexts. The crucial links and similarities between Afghan and Pakistani brick kilns are useful to pinpoint the bonding force of debt. Thus this paper focuses on how workers describe brick kiln labour and the role the dimension of “future” plays in their lives. Can work at the brick kiln be just a phase to attain a job, or does it stretch beyond a phase as the debtor/worker’s life is carried out?