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NETWORKS OF LABOUR International officers and social networks in the history of the International Labour Organization

Start Date

Over the last 20 years, historiography has observed that international institutions are ideal
case-studies for the study of transnational connections. Such an analysis can be made on
several levels: in addition to investigating institutional structures or founding principles, an
examination of the concrete functioning of these bodies allows us to analyze not only the forms
and strategies of interstate political relations, but also the transnational circulation of
problems, proposals, and people. From this point of view, the emergence of international
organizations after WWI is linked to the appearance of a new figure in the world of work: the
international officer, embedded within – and in turn the producer of – broader political and
epistemic networks.The concept of "epistemic network" was introduced by Jasmien Van Daele
and then adopted by Sandrine Kott to define and analyze a part of the social linkages revolving
around the International Labour Organization (ILO), which was founded in 1919 to strengthen
the protections of workers and the triangular dialogue between trade unions, business
representatives, and public authorities. Against this setting, epistemic networks are defined by
intense exchanges and debates characterized by high specialization, by sharing practices that
are first spontaneous and then slowly formalized, and by the aim to elaborate proposals that
move beyond the dimension and purpose of the single nation state.
The main objective of the conference is to study the history, individual and collective, of the
officials and experts who collaborated within the ILO; we will focus on the social, political, and
epistemic networks where their activity took place, and observe their paths, origins, socioeconomic
and educational backgrounds, debates, political loyalties, personal motivations,
technical skills, and diverse trajectories.

ILO Office in Rome