Native legislations and repressive realities: the indigenato and colonial labour in comparative perspective (1890-1961)
Alexander Keese (Université de Genève)
Eric Allina (University of Ottawa)
Miguel Bandeira Jerónimo (Institute of Social Sciences-University of Lisbon)
Start time:
27 June, 2013 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Portugal's empire is well known for repressive labour regimes, especially its 'native' legislation, the indigenato. The panel will discuss comparatively this cornerstone of Portuguese colonialism, connecting it to 'mainstream' British and French practices, and considering the legacies of each.

Long abstract:

Practices of repressive labour recruitment and organisation are perhaps the hallmark of debates over Portuguese colonialism. Scholars have identified forced labour as typical for territories under Portuguese rule, and many studies offer systematic and nuanced analyses of the hardships experienced by local populations. The so-called 'indigenato' ('native' legislation) was a key tool in this context, enabling Portuguese officials to inflict punishment on local individuals with relative ease, including widespread abuse of corporal punishment. However, to the current day, analyses of Portugal's repression in colonial Africa continue to be somewhat disconnected from analogous studies of other European colonialisms. This obscures the fact that we find parallel labour practices in both French and British colonies in Africa. The panel aims to address the lack of comparative perspectives and to open a broader discussion of European colonial repression expressed through 'native legislations' (e.g. the French indigénat and the British Master and Servants Act), in particular with regard to involuntary labour recruitment and disciplinary measures exerted over the labour force. This perspective will not only enhance our understanding of these crucial colonial practices, but also allow us to reflect upon the legacy ofsuch repressive measures in early postcolonial regimes, above all in rural districts of newly independent countries. The history of post-independence transformations in African labour has yet to be written. In the context of producing elements for such a future project, this panel hopes to advance the debate on the ongoing legacies of colonial discrimination and compulsory labour practices in Africa.