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The Chimera of Abolition: Forced Labor in Colonial British East and West Africa, 1894-1939

Opolot Okia (Wright State University, USA)



Was forced labor really abolished during the colonial period in Africa?  The British are often described as among the first European colonial powers in Africa to abolish forced labor in the early 1920s.  But did they really abolish forced labor?   Although British abolition did lead to the cessation of forced labor for private business interests and paid forced labor for the colonial administration, it did not lead to the end of all coercive labor practices.  In fact, with abolition, various forms of labor exploitation continued and were reinforced under the traditional institutions of tribe and family.  This paper examines the abolition of forced labor in colonial Uganda, Kenya and the Gold Coast in the early twentieth-century.  Specifically, it delves into the actual impact that abolition had on the persistence of various forms of coercive labor practices that were ultimately intertwined with changes in the colonial economies. 



Dr. Opolot Okia is a professor of African History at Wright State University.  His research examines forced labor in colonial East Africa and the impact of changing international discourses on acceptable labor practices. He has published several articles and two books, Communal Labor in Colonial Kenya: The Legitimization of Coercion, 1912-1930 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and Labor in Colonial Kenya After the forced Labor Convention (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019).  Dr. Okia has also twice served as a Fulbright scholar at Moi University in Kenya (2007-2009) and Makerere University in Uganda (2016-2017). 



May 18, 2022
17:45-19:15 Uhr


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