Experiencing unfree labour in African colonies under Iberian rule

junio 14, 2012 – junio 16, 2012

COORDINADORES: Alexander Keese | Enrique Martino Martín


Forced labour was an integral ingredient of systems of European colonial domination on the African continent, as well as an experience to which colonized populations were widely subject. Forced labour served to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure for economic extraction and pushed rural populations into producing or collecting particular, economically strategic, plants (cotton, rubber). Moreover, earlier mechanisms through which the state directly offered forced labour to privately owned plantations, came to be replaced by more subtle forms, for example through vagrancy laws, by which Africans categorized as "unemployed" had to accept extended contracts on plantations as the only alternative to imprisonment or punishment through labour on public works. The plantation sector in Portuguese Angola and São Tomé e Príncipe, and in Spanish Fernando Pó, largely depended on such contract labour.

Although involuntary labour is a distinctive and important element of colonial rule Iberian-style, the mechanisms of forced labour in these colonies under Spanish and Portuguese rule are clearly under-researched. There are no initiatives of coming to a broader picture of the ?Iberian? variant of forced labour and, eventually, of contrasting it with ideologically progressive French and British Africa. The ?Iberian? variant was organized, from the end of the 1930s, within two authoritarian colonial states and, thereby, under the very particular conditions of colonial systems in which internal discussions and critique were limited and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) remained uninvited. Moreover, there is a clear lack of research on the effects that these labour practices had on the individuals forced to work, and on responses in the sense of resistance and flight movements. Finally, as concerns recruitment for the plantations and its non-free character, the different colonies had an inter-territorial (recruitment of Angolans, Mozambicans, and Cape Verdeans for the plantations on São Tomé e Príncipe) or even international (recruitment of Nigerians for those on Fernando Pó and of French Equatorial Africans for those on the mainland enclave of Rio Muni) dimension, which have not been studied in appropriate ways.

Forced labour effectively stopped in both empires between 1959 and 1962. However, the practice left its marks on (former) colonial societies well into the period of post-colonial state-hood. The panel will question historical trajectories, shed light on continuities beyond independence, and make an attempt at defining if we can speak of a particular "Ibero-African experience" of forced labour.

Idiomas: Inglés, Portugués y Español

Formato: Disscusant

Información del panel

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