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Connecting Histories of Work and Non-Work in 20th Century Africa

Andreas Eckert

Humboldt-Universität Berlin

Not only in labor history, Africa has served as an example of otherness, which meant nothing else that Africa did not seem to fit the patterns of the North Atlantic realm that so much defined what is „normal“ or „universal“.I argue that the history of different forms of labor in Africa and especially the ways in which these different forms were categorized have a great deal to offer to global labor history and more generally to the history of capitalism for which labor is a crucial category. My presentation is mainly centered around the theme of work and non-work and the question of how and by whom work and worker are conceptualized. What accounted for work and what not? What was the role of the (colonial) state and of international organizations such as the ILO in these processes? And how did politics of informalisation and precarity came into play? How was the division between the formal and the informal created? How did certain categories such as unemployment emerge in Africa? And how did historiography come to terms with these complex issues?

December 10, 2014