Allina Eric / University of Ottawa
Keese Alexander / Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
This panel puts the history of African labor policy and practice in a longer-term perspective, examining continuities between colonial-era ideas and institutions and their independence-era analogs. African history is closely bound up with the history of labor policy and practice. Indeed, the onset of the colonial era was marked by the imposition of labor obligations of massive proportions upon African populations. The interwar years, often seen as a watershed period, brought important shifts in metropolitan policies and actual practices on the ground, even when the latter did not always adhere to the former. So, too, colonialism’s demise was, in some respects, connected to abolition of forced labor policies. Finally, second perhaps only to the effacing of racial primacy, post-colonial governments put maximum effort to re-forming the place of labor in political and public life. The panel convenes papers with a common interest in the norms that underlay labor policies and practices of both eras, as well the strategies and tactics Africans deployed to address the demands and expectations of colonial and postcolonial governments. In embracing research that crosses the divide between the colonial and independence eras, and that offers a comparative perspective, the panel aims to engage with wider debates in global labour history, especially questions connected to the ethos of communal obligation, the Cold War, and state-worker relations and the challenges of popular mobilization.
Politiques et pratiques du travail de l’ère coloniale à l’époque postcoloniale
Ce panel traite de l’histoire des politiques du travail en Afrique dans une perspective de long terme, examinant les continuités entre les idées et institutions de l’ère coloniale à l’époque des indépendances. L’histoire de l’Afrique est intimement liée à l’histoire des politiques et des pratiques de travail. Les années de l’entre-deux-guerres, considérées comme un moment charnière, ont entraîné des changements importants dans les politiques et dans les pratiques quotidiennes, malgré les écarts subistant entre les deux. Par ailleurs, la fin du colonialisme fut, à certains égards, liée à l’abolition du travail forcé. Finalement, en dehors de l’effacement des hiérarchies raciales, les gouvernements postcoloniaux œuvrèrent activement à la redéfinition de la place du travail dans la vie politique et publique. Le panel réunit des contributions ayant un intérêt commun dans les normes qui sous-tendent les politiques et pratiques des deux périodes, ainsi que les stratégies et tactiques déployées par les Africains pour répondre aux exigences et attentes gouvernementales. Proposant une approche transversale aux périodes coloniales et postcoloniales, et offrant une perspective comparative, le panel vise à s’inscrire dans les débats sur le travail en histoire globale, particulièrement les questions reliées à l’ethos de l’obligation réciproque, à la Guerre froide, aux relations Etat-travailleurs et aux défis de la mobilisation populaire.
Schenck Marcia / Princeton University
From Madjonidjoni to Magerman: Memories and narratives of Mozambican labor migrants’ experiences in the German Democratic Republic in historical perspective
This paper explores how Mozambican labor migration to the German Democratic Republic (1979-1990) serves as a case study to rethink continuity and discontinuity between pre-colonial and postcolonial worker regimes in Mozambican labor history. Drawing mainly on interviews conducted in Mozambique with former migrants, it engages their perspectives and those of Mozambican official.
Concentrating on memories and narrative, the paper first lays out how workers perceived the goal of the contract labor scheme, situating these statements within debates on developmentalism and state-citizen relationships. Next, the paper examines the language of free and unfree labor employed by the workers with regard to how their experiences relate to that of previous generations of Mozambicans who endured different (forced) schemes of mobility such as slavery, forced labor and labor migration to South Africa. Third, the paper compares and contrasts workers’ perspectives with those of Mozambican officials who frame the labor program in terms of friendship among communist nations, of mutual advantage to the Mozambican and German economies, and in terms of contributions to national development. The paper argues that, while there are certain aspects of continuity between earlier (forced) migration experiences and the contract labor scheme to East Germany, this program took place at a different moment in history and was influenced by a different state philosophy on work and development.
Henriet Benoît / Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles
Une concession (post)coloniale. Le travail dans les cercles Lever au Congo, 1945-1965
Présent au Congo depuis 1911, Unilever continue d’y exploiter de vastes concessions de palmier jusqu’en 1975. Je propose d’analyser l’évolution des rapports entre sa branche locale (Huilever) et ses travailleurs dans la période courant de la fin de la 2e Guerre Mondiale au coup d’Etat de J.-D. Mobutu en 1965.
Les quinze dernières années de la colonie belge sont marquées par un vaste programme d’investissements destinés à améliorer la condition de ses populations africaines. Il s’agira d’observer l’impact concret de ces intentions politiques pour les travailleurs d’une entreprise dont le passé est caractérisé par un recours fréquent à la contrainte pour encadrer sa main d’œuvre. La période de 1960-1965 est quant à elle le théâtre de l’éclatement de multiples troubles – rébellions, sécessions, renversements de gouvernements – certains touchant directement aux zones d’activité de Lever.
Au fil de cette recherche, la coexistence de ruptures politiques et de continuités économiques va permettre de mettre en lumière l’autonomie effective de l’organisation du travail privé face aux pouvoirs publics dans le Congo en transition. Elle permettra également de mesurer dans quelle mesure le “tournant social” opéré par le pouvoir belge dans les années 1950 et l’accession de la colonie à l’indépendance rompt avec les pratiques de travail contraint auquel l’entreprise a eu recours depuis 1911.
Lazzarini Alicia / University of Minnesota
Gendered, Raced, and Migratory Labor: Re-forming Sugar Regimes in Xinavane, Mozambique
This paper explores historical and newly emerging, gendered, raced, and migratory labor regimes in Mozambique’s most successfully ‘rehabilitated’ postwar industry – sugar. Focusing on the Açucareira de Xinavane, an icon of job creation and investment success as well as ‘recolonizing’ land grabbing, this paper asks how Xinavane’s agricultural labor organization and production strategies echo and diverge from the colonial past. Drawing on archival and ethnographic research across 20th c. British estate establishment, midcentury Portuguese ownership, and contemporary South African-Mozambican reinvestment, this paper analyzes how colonial labor management drew on, regulated, and operationalized a complex socio-spatial system of gendered, raced, and migratory labor to produce value for state and private enterprise. It also delineates how contemporary labor strategy renews and critically diverges from such divisions. Taking seriously the question of ‘the postcolonial’ in Mozambique, this piece examines how labor regimes repeat with a difference to create new, particular, gender-, race- and place-based rules and orders. Such repetitions disrupt ahistorical narratives of capitalist efficiency and give depth to and push further charges of worker and peasant disenfranchisement through capitalist ‘penetration’. Interrogating such complexities enables a deeply layered understanding of sugar’s crucial role in a ‘new’, postcolonial Mozambique, as well as implications for transformation.
Callebert Ralph / Virginia Tech University
African workers, the state, and global labor history
Both African and global labor history continue to focus mostly on wage labor or on forms of labor that are recognizably commodified (slavery, cash cropping, etc.). However, such forms of labor are not necessarily the dominant relations of production in Africa and much of the Global South, where workers often fit uneasily into accounts of proletarianization and commodified labor. Moreover, wage labor and job creation are often central to our understandings of democracy and citizenship, popular politics, and social justice; i.e. our understanding of the relations between individuals, the state, and civil society. The nascent but substantial field of global labor history has come a long way in challenging this privileged position of ‘free’ wage labor, capitalist markets, and the nation-state. However, its approach frequently has been additive: adding some regions into the mix and adding a chapter on informal, domestic, and/or reproductive labor. To move beyond this approach and to rethink the concept of labor, I argue, African history is a good place to start. Africanists have extensively studied the multitude of complex strategies households use to survive, which may but often do not include wage labor or production for the market, as well as modes of citizenship and political mobilization that do not revolve around waged employment or formal entrepreneurialism.
Liebst Michelle / University of Cambridge
Labour policies and practices of colonial administrators and Christian missionaries, Tanzania, 1900-1930
This paper aims to explore the connections between the labour policies and practices of colonial administrators and those of an Anglican missionary society called the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) based in Tanzania. There are two historical events that prompt further research into these connections. Firstly, in 1916 as a contribution to the war effort, UMCA Bishop Frank Weston led a band of porters in and around the coast, recruiting increasing numbers of porters in the process. There still exists an account of the expedition, in which there were many revolts, written by an African Christian. Secondly, in the following year, Weston wrote a controversial open letter entitled “The Black Slaves of Prussia” to General Smuts, criticising the newly established forced labour policies of the British administration. Throughout the 1920s the missionaries of the UMCA took a consistently critical stance on colonial labour policies. I hope to explore these critiques in relation to missionaries’ own role as employers and patrons. This paper will set these issues within the cultural context of the time, bearing in mind what kinds of livelihood trajectories Africans pursued and the notions of respectability that characterised them. In particular, I wish to focus on the question of African resistance to or compliance with their employers or patrons and suggest how it is often misleading to think of these reactions as having a dichotomous relationship.