Jan Breman

Jan Breman (1936) majored in the social sciences at the University of Amsterdam and specialized in South and Southeast Asian Studies. In 1962 he became a staff member, later reader and professor, at Erasmus University Rotterdam. He held a chair in the sociology of development since 1974.

His transfer in 1987 to Amsterdam University, to teach comparative sociology, coincided with the establishment of the post-graduate Centre for Asian Studies Amsterdam (CASA). He was Dean of CASA and the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research with which CASA merged, until September 1998.

He was appointed extraordinary professor of development sociology at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, a post he held until 2001. His Valedictory Address delivered on 25 October, 2001 was entitled ‘A Question of Poverty’.

He continues to be affiliated to the Amsterdam School but is also Fellow of the International Institute of Asian Studies.


Jan Breman is a visiting professor in India (Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi) and in Indonesia (Agricultural University, Bogor), and has travelled widely on short-term academic visits to other Asian countries. He has carried out consultancy missions in the Asian region for ILO, UNRISD, ESCAP, Asian Development Bank, as well as for various non-government agencies and for the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation.

Spread over a period of forty-five years Jan Breman has conducted anthropological fieldwork in India (South Gujarat) and Indonesia (West Java), mainly on rural and urban labour and employment. The outcome of his research has been published in books and journals.

Major book publications:

Of Patronage and Exploitation (University of California Press 1974)

Control of Land and Labour; A Case Study of Agrarian Crisis and Reform in the Region of Cirebon during the first decades of the 20th century (Verhandelingen K.I.T.L.V. 101, Foris Publications 1983)

Of Peasants, Migrants and Workers, Rujral labour Circulation and Capitalist Production in West India (Clarendon Press 1985)

Taming the Coolie Beast (Oxford University Press 1989, Dutch edition 1987 Chinese edition 1992, Indonesian edition 1997)

Labour Migration and Rural Transformation in Colonial India (Free University Press, Amsterdam 1990)

Beyond Patronage and Exploitation (Oxford University Press 1993)

Wage Hunters and Gatherers (Oxford University Press 1994)

Footloose Labour; Working in India's Informal Economy (Cambridge University Press, 1996)

The Labouring Poor in India; Patterns of Exploitation and Exclusion (Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi 2003)

The Making and Unmaking of an Industrial Working Class; Sliding Down the Labour Hierarchy in Ahmedabad, India (Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi 2004).

In addition, he has edited or co-authored several books, e.g.

(with S. Mundle) Rural Transformations in Asia (Oxford University Press, 1991)
Imperial Monkey Business; Racial Supremacy in Social Darwinist Theory and Colonial Practice (Free University Press, Amsterdam 1990)

(with P. Kloos and A. Saich) The Village in Asia Revisited (Oxford University Press, 1997)

(with J. Parry and K Kapadia)The Worlds of Indian Industrial Labour (Sage, 1999)

(with A. Das and R. Agarwal) Down and Out: Labouring under Global Capitalism (Oxford University Press and Amsterdam University Press 2000)
Good Times and Bad Times in Rural Java; A Study of Socio-Economic Dynamics towards the End of the Twentieth Century ( KITLV Press, Leiden 2002) (with G. Wiradi; an Indonesian edition will be launched in April 2005 by LP3S, Jakarta).

(with Parthiv Shah) Working in the Mill No More ( Oxford University Press , Delhi 2004)

In addition to these book formats he has published articles in many academic journals. Parts of his work has been translated into Indian languages (Gujarati, Bengali and Hindi), Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, German and French. He received the Edgar Graham Book Prize in 1997, an award from the Indonesian government for the Bahasa Indonesia edition of his book on coolie labour in 1998 and one for the photo-cum-text book Down and Out from the Indian Guild of Book Publishers in 2001.

Professor Breman was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at ISS on 29 October, 2009. His Inaugural lecture was entitled The Great Transformation in a Globalized Perspective. On this occasion Professor Jan Pronk delivered the laudatio