Accepted paper:

Organizing Forced Labour, Recruiters in Nyanza Province Early 20th Century.


Carlos Fallas Santamaria (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Forced Labour in Kenya was organized by the Colonial State by delegating the recruitment process to private companies and local headmen. Doing this, the Colonial State remove itself from responsibilities connected to the wellbeing of workers, blaming contracted companies for the abuses.

Paper long abstract:

Forced Labour was the way in which the Colonial State supplied the demand of workers created by capitalistic activities in Kenya. However, neither the state or white settlers were in charge of the process of recruitment and displacement of workers; those activities were delegated to private companies specialized in those practices. The process of recruitment was established through colonial law: private contractors - most of them Indians - were the recruiters, and headmen were in charge of supplying those companies with men of their own community. In this paper, I explore the legal background of Forced Labour and the role played by the different actors involved in it. In the process of recruitment, breaches were common; headmen, recruiters, and officials were involved is those situations. I explain how this practice was more exploitative than the law, and how recruiters were part of this mechanism. I also explore some reactions I have found in the documents, not just from workers, but also from recruiters who were exploited and tried to escape the Forced Labour machinery. Forced Labour was a major task for the Colonial State, delegating part of the process to private companies helped to continue with the recruiting system, regardless of labour conditions and abuses suffered by the workers. This highlights how little the Colonial State cared about the wellbeing of the workers.

panel P142
Migration and "in-between" Logistics: Recruiters, Agencies, Brokers and Transport Workers