Jan Breman (1936) majored in the social sciences at the University of Amsterdam, specialized in South and Southeast Asian Studies and got his Ph.D. degree from the University of Amsterdam in 1970.. Having been appointed reader and then professor of comparative sociology at Erasmus University (the former Netherlands Economic School) in Rotterdam, his transfer in 1987 to Amsterdam University, to teach comparative sociology, coincided with the establishment of the post-graduate Centre for Asian Studies Amsterdam. He was Dean of CASA and co-founder (with A, de Swaan) of the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research with which CASA merged, until he stepped down in September 1998. In addition he became extraordinary professor of sociology at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague but continued to be affiliated to the Amsterdam School, He was also nominated Fellow of the International Institute of Asian Studies in Leiden. Jan Breman has been visiting professor in India (Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi), in China (Xiamen University, School of Public Affairs) 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 located in The Netherlands or abroad and for the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation in Bangladesh. On becoming emeritus professor in 2001, he was invited to continue his scholarly work at the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, subsequently transformed into the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research.
Breman’s research interests are work, employment and labour relations in contemporary Asia, history of colonialism, labour migration, conditions of poverty and the social question in a global perspective. Mainly on these themes he has supervised twenty-five ph.d. theses. Spread over a period of fifty years Jan Breman has conducted anthropological fieldwork in India (South Gujarat), Indonesia (West Java) and subsequently also in China (Xiamen) and Pakistan (Sindh).
His fieldwork based research has resulted in more than twenty books, published by the University of California Press, Clarendon Press, University of Cambridge Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Sage and Amsterdam University Press. In addition to these book formats he has published articles in many academic journals and contributed to edited volumes (for a list of major publications see below).He is on the editorial board of various professional journals: The Indian Journal of Labour Economics (Delhi), The Journal of Agrarian Change (London), The Journal of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore), Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge), Development and Change (The Hague).
Major book publications are: Patronage and Exploitation; Changing Agrarian Relations in South Gujarat, India (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 Paupers, Rural 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); Labour Bondage in West India; From Past to Present (Oxford University Press, Delhi 2007); The Poverty Regime in Village India (Oxford University Press, Delhi 2007), The Jan Breman Omnibus (Oxford Univ. Press 2008). Koloniaal profijt van onvrije arbeid; het Preanger stelsel van gedwongen koffieteelt op Java, 1720-1870 (Amsterdam University Press; 2010) Outcast Labour in Asia; Circulation and Informalization of the Workforce at the Bottom of the Economy (Oxford University Press 2010). At Work in the Informal Economy of India Oxford University Press 2013). Mobilizing Labour for the Global Coffee Market; Profits from an Unfree Work Regime in Colonial Java, IISH series no.1 Work in Asia (Amsterdam University Press 2015). On Pauperism in Present and Past. Oxford University Press 2016.
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. Saith) 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 has been launched in April 2005 by LP3S, Jakarta). Working in the Mill No More (with Parthiv Shah (Oxford University Press and Amsterdam University Press 2004) and with Isabelle Guerin and Aseem Prakash as co-editors India’s Unfree Workforce; Of Bondage Old and New (Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi 2009). With K.P. Kannan The Long Road to Social Security; Assessing the Implementation of National Social Security Initiatives for the Working Poor in India (Oxford Univ. Press 2013).
Apart from to these book formats he has published articles in many academic journals and contributed to volumes edited by other scholars. Parts of his work have been translated into Indian languages (Gujarati, Bengali and Hindi), Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, German, Spanish, French and Spanish.
For a number of years he has been a member of the board of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Anthropology and Languages (KITLV), the South Asia Committee of the American Social Science Research Council, the Committee on Asian Studies of the European Science Foundation, the International Institute of Asian studies, the Netherlands Foundation for Tropical Research (WOTRO) and the International Institute of Social History (IISG). He is (old) fellow of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and of the Academia Europaea and Honorary Fellow at the International Institute of Social History.
Awards. He received the Edgar Graham Book Prize granted by the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1997 for original scholarship on development in Asia, an award from the Indonesian government for the bahasa indonesia edition of his book on coolie labour at Sumatra’s East Coast in 1998 and one for the photo-cum-text book Down and Out from the Indian Guild of Book Publishers in 2001. In the Netherlands he was awarded in 2001 an official distinction (Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw) for his scholarly merits as well as for his role as adviser to civic/human rights organizations. In October 2009 he was distinghuished with an honorary doctorate at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague and another one awarded by the School of Oriental and African Studies, Univ. of London on July 26th, 2013.