Thirteenth seminar meeting on “Labour transformations in Sub-Saharan Africa from colonial to postcolonial times” by Dr Kleoniki Alexopoulou

The Department of Mediterranean and Global Economic and Social History and the Centre of Maritime History of the IMS/FORTH will organise, during the present academic year 2022-2023, a third annual series of seminar meetings on the «Global Economic History and the History of the Seas», using the zoom platform. We intend to re-examine the spatial and temporal framework of our collective research, in a way that can provide an optimal operational context for the adoption and use of the analytical concepts and interpretative patterns inspired by recent developments in Global History and Thalassology. Our ultimate goal is to create an academic environment with a common understanding of research priorities, fields of study and focal points that will contribute to the renovation and enlargement of the scope of Greek economic history and fully integrated it into the current debates of the international community of global economic historians.
Researchers and collaborating faculty members of the IMS/FORTH took the initiative of organizing this series of seminars but our meetings are open to all, under the constraints imposed by modern telecommunication technology. We are planning to meet monthly, usually every Monday at 16:00 (Greek time). The conferences will be given in Greek or English, according to the composition of the audience. Updated information and any additional material for our projected meetings will be freely provided by the relevant web-page of the IMS/FORTH.


Οn Monday Nov.21, at 16:00 (Greek time) Dr Kleoniki Alexopoulou (Dept. of Political Science and History, Panteion University) will give a conference on «Labour transformations in Sub-Saharan Africa from colonial to postcolonial times».

You can register in advance to our seminar meetings using the following LINK



Abstract: This presentation aims at giving a long-term, broad overview of labour transformations from the 19th century to the 2000s in Southern and Central Africa, in relation to capital and state imperialism. How did the evolving uses of labour in the colonial era affect labour practices in a postcolonial African context? I study the passage from the end of slavery in the early 19th century to the rise of various forms of free and unfree, wage and forced labour at the turn of the 20th century. I identify commonalities and differences between African regions under the British, Portuguese and Belgian rule as well as independent South Africa. I highlight labour regimes in cash crop production in the Belgian Congo and Portuguese Africa as well as proletarianization in the mining sector in South Africa and British Northern Rhodesia. I problematise the increasing precarization of labour in the postcolonial era, resulting from high urbanisation and de-industrialisation, and consider the boom of informal employment after neoliberal interventions as a response of African workers to increasing poverty and inequality. I argue that the ruptures, such as the political independence from the metropolitan powers, do not outweigh the continuities in African labour regimes, as the government-imposed cotton schemes in Mozambique and the persistent hierarchies in the mining sector in Zambia show. Colonial legacy and path dependency continue playing a significant role. Last, I try to engage in the underlying discussion on agency and gender aspects of labour, as counterweight to the dominant Eurocentric gaze.