Onderzoekt en verzamelt de geschiedenis van werk, werkenden en arbeidsverhoudingen wereldwijd

Panel: New Frontiers, Old Struggles in African Labor Studies

29 november 2012
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Panel, organized at the African Studies Association, 55th Annual Meeting, 29 November - 1 December 2012 in Philadelphia, PA, USA.

The panel is open to all researchers who are interested in labour issues in Africa and who would like to contribute to a revival in labour studies within the field of African studies. The panel is intrinsically multidisciplinary. Labour issues are open to analysis from historical, economic, sociological, anthropological, and political points of view. The panel is interested in receiving papers aimed at stimulating a debate on labour studies from a theoretical point of as well as research papers presenting specific case studies on labour issues in different African regions.

Some important themes are the influence of internal and external factors (including influences from the past), the development of labour relations and the evolving definition of work and workers in Africa. Who is a “worker” in Africa? How do workers build a collective identity?  How is labour exploited or valued?  How have labour relations and conditions changed historically?  What role does labour play in different productions and different sectors? Are there comparisons to be made?  What is the relationship between formal and informal labour?  In what way do global connections (or so-called “teleconnections”) play a vital role in shaping labour conditions and even creating new labour forms? 

The subject of labour is often notable by its absence in many debates on Africa. A reappraisal of the importance of addressing labour issues is long-overdue. An analysis of labour, labour history, changes in labour conditions, etc. can shed light on changing patterns in factories or industries and can highlight how societies are changing. Work and labour in fact should not be limited to the study of the working-class but should encompass the study of the working people, which in Africa, for example, includes women in the household as well as children in the informal sector.

This panel is open to those who think that labour studies in Africa are fundamental to politically theorise and critically analyse African societies from an internationalist or universalistic perspective.


New Frontiers, Old Struggles in African Labor Studies: Theory and Methodology (Part I)
Chair: Nwokeji, G. Ugo, University of California‐Berkeley

  • Osborn, Emily Lynn, University of Chicago, Historiographies of African Labor: Work, Migration, and Economic Change in Comparative Perspective
  • Barchiesi, Franco, Ohio State University, Precarity in African Labor History: New Directions
  • Bellucci, Stefano, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Global Labour History and Its Meaning for the Study of Work in and from Africa
  • Discussant: Schler, Lynn, Ben‐Gurion University

New Frontiers, Old Struggles in African Labor Studies: Empirical Case Studies (Part II)
Chair: Bellucci, Stefano, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

  • Cobley, Alan G., University of the West Indies, Lacking in Respect for Whitemen: An Early Experiment in the Use of Black Labour from Central Africa on the Witwatersrand Gold Mines, 1903-1904
  • George, Abosede A., Barnard College, Columbia University, Gender, Generation, and Labor Control in 1940s Lagos
  • Hart, Jennifer, Wayne State University, Labor Unions, Entrepreneurs, and the Politics of Driving in Twentieth‐Century Ghana
  • Makori, Timothy, University of Toronto, When the Future is in Reverse: The Problem with Labor in the History of Miners in Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Discussant: Barchiesi, Franco, Ohio State University