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Violence and Work: Convict Labour and Settler Colonialism in the Cape-Namibia Border Region

Herzog, Kai F.. (2021) Violence and Work: Convict Labour and Settler Colonialism in the Cape-Namibia Border Region. Journal of Southern African Studies, 47 (1). pp. 17-36.

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Abstract

This article focuses on convict labour in the Namibian-Cape border region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It situates this form of unfree labour within broader trans-colonial discussions on the 'labour question' and compulsion after the abolition of slavery. The article demonstrates that convict labour was a flexible and steadily available labour force, which officials used on both sides of the Orange river to manage, in part, the fluctuating labour demands of public and private employers. While local Cape officials utilised it to meet recurring labour deficits at short notice, their German counterparts followed the long-term objective of 'educating' Africans to work by means of compulsion. At the same time, colonisers on this shared frontier of the Cape Colony and German South West Africa lamented the weak deterrent effects of convict labour as this potentially undermined their claimed authority and control over convicts as well as over African labour more broadly, partly unsettled by convicts' own actions. Ultimately, this article argues that officials conceived of violence as a key measure to counter these subversive tendencies but that it had equivocal consequences that further complicated the 'labour question' on the ground. By analysing the debates on and (violent) practices of enforcing convict labour, the article also opens a window on to the contentious formation of settler colonialism on the ground.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Bereich Geschichte Afrikas > Geschichte Afrikas (Tischler)
UniBasel Contributors:Herzog, Kai Florian
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Routledge
ISSN:0305-7070
e-ISSN:1465-3893
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Language:English
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:24 Mar 2021 16:32
Deposited On:19 Mar 2021 16:26

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