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|Institution:||Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, Berlin|
The international research project ‘ForcedLabourAfrica’, ERC Starting Grant no. 240898, funded by the European Community, invites applications for three PhD stipends to be settled at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. The successful candidates will participate in a group analyzing practices of forced labour under colonial rule and their after-effects in sub-Saharan Africa. It is expected from the group members on PhD level to take up a doctoral project from one of the three regional contexts outlined below. They will finalise a doctorate and contribute at least one chapter to a group publication, under the supervision of Principal Investigator Alexander Keese.
At the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the project group will contribute to and enjoy the academic life at the International Research Center “Work and Human Life-Cycle in a Global Perspective”, a unique place of academic exchange on the history of labour. Directed by Andreas Eckert, the research center offers conditions to interact with an international group of specialists. The group members will profit from an inspiring environment of methodological debate and comparative discussion on experiences of labour through different periods and in different parts of the world.
Please note that this selection process will consist of two phases. This is due to current grant amendment procedures with the European Commission. While funding for the PhD stipends is guaranteed, the start date and the settlement of the posts at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin can presumably only be confirmed shortly before selection phase 2. No final selection will be made before the end of this latter phase, which is likely to fall into the second half of June 2011. The use of two selection phases is advisable to speed up the entire process in the interest of candidates.
The project addresses structures of forced labour under colonial rule in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on West, West Central and South Central Africa. The project language is English. Applicants should at least decide for one of the following regional contexts, in which their PhD project would fall in case of their selection:
Cocoa and the whip: São Tomé e Príncipe between scandal, reform, and internal tensions, 1930 to ca. 1978
The small archipelago of São Tomé e Príncipe was considered, by the 1920s, one of the biggest scandals of all the colonial labour systems. In a phase in which it was still unusual to attack the colonial practices of European administrations, the case of São Tomé was already discussed by both the League of Nations and the International Labour Organisation. In many of the prosperous cocoa plantations (the roças) in the mountainous interior of the two islands, workers were treated like slaves, they earned little or no money and, frequently coming from Angola during the interwar period, were kept on the archipelago against their will for prolonged periods.
After 1945, those conditions gradually improved, at least on paper. However, it is obvious that still at the end of the 1940s, the hygienic and nutritional situation on many of the roças was disastrous. In 1953, the island of São Tomé was the place of a suspected revolt, and of colonial over-reaction against so-called ‘conspirers’, culminating in the Batepá massacre of the same year. The role of the labourers on the roças during those events is still far from being sufficiently analysed; even a short glance at this problem shows that the behaviour of those labourers was very complex. Even more, we know next to nothing about the evolution on the roças between 1961 and 1975. From the period after national independence towards 1980, the nationalisation of the roças provoked new effects on the conditions of the labour force.
Candidates for this project will need to have at least capacities in fluent reading of Portuguese, and have to acquire proficiency in written and oral Portuguese in the first year of their project period.
A model colony? Ghana/Gold Coast from 1930 to 1975
The case of Ghana is particularly instructive because this colony has had long tradition of being exposed, by the British administration, as a haven of good labour conditions. Part of this can be explained by early competition of the Gold Coast administration with the neighbouring German colonial regime in Togo: British officials attempted to motivate locals from the other side of the border to migrate into the British-controlled zone. Those efforts to cope with the increasing demands for labour were multiplied after the First World War, when Germany lost the territory of Togo. At this moment, the western part of the Togo colony, now being administered within the Gold Coast Colony, became an enlargement of the latter’s cocoa zone. Being confronted from 1914 with a French neighbour in eastern Togo and Upper Volta, British officials resumed their former strategy. They engaged in luring possible workers from Togo into the Volta Region under British rule, and tried to divert the transport of labour recruits from Upper Volta scheduled for the coffee areas of Côte d’Ivoire, into the Gold Coast. For all those reasons, the Gold Coast administration favoured a relaxed approach towards forced labour. This was still confirmed by the decisive role important local chiefs played in the colonial regime, and who jealously guarded their own prerogatives in commanding the local workforce.
However, the latter point in itself is extremely interesting to analyse, and becomes still more important whenever one considers that the British colonial administration frequently needed, nonetheless, an ad-hoc labour force for road and railroad construction and maintenance, in particular. This problem became less dominant in the post-World War II period, when ample funding for infrastructure was accessible over a couple of years. However, the transition from ‘communal labour’ on the roads administered by the chiefs, to a free labour market, is obscure, and this project will focus on the different phases of this process.
Feigned abolition, repressive reality? The turbulent end of forced labour in Senegal, 1930-1975
In Senegal, like in most of the French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa, the history of forced labour between the 1930s and decolonisation was a story of ups and downs. In 1930, the recourse to an involuntary labour force, organised collectively through local chiefs, was still the rule. The demand for a workforce seems to have been so desperate in some cases that officials exerted pressure on the legal system in order to ‘produce’ more penal labourers. In the period of the Second World War, notoriously after the Government-General of French West Africa had finally changed to the Gaullist side, a repressive use of forced labour, particularly in the form of extended labour tax contributions, became the rule.
After the end of the war, French officials found themselves in the embarrassing situation to overthrow the whole system, a system that had indeed reached its most brutal forms only months before. Moreover, the existence of an ‘educated elite’ in the coastal urban centres of Senegal, which was now enabled to participate in territorial elections, made this subject a vulnerable point to be exploited in electoral campaigns. This contrast made it extremely difficult for administrators to react properly, as the expectations of their allies among local chiefs, local populations, and the leaders and marabouts of the important religious orders (especially of the Muridiyya) were often diametrically opposed.
Some clandestine forms of involuntary labour very probably survived official abolition in 1945. The evolution of these practices towards independence is unknown. Reactions and mentalities of the local populations will be at the heart of this analysis.
The successful candidate will have a fluent level in French; knowledge in Wolof is a plus.
Candidates will have a master/MA or equivalent degree in history or an adjacent field. They are, during this first selection phase, invited to send a letter of motivation (pointing out individual capacities and interest with regard to the project contexts), a curriculum vitae, and a letter of support by an academic teacher (e.g. the professor responsible for their master thesis), plus (optionally) a second letter of recommendation by an academic peer or other researcher.
In this first selection phase, applications are to be sent before 20 May 2011, to the current research address of the Principal Investigator:
Dr. Alexander Keese
Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto (CEAUP)
Via Panorâmica, s/n
The second phase of the selection process is planned to lie between the 15 and 25 June 2011 (dates to be confirmed). Candidates who have sent their application material during the first phase will then be asked to confirm their application.
Informal inquiries concerning this application can be made to the Principal Investigator of “ForcedLabourAfrica”, to email address: a.keese
Dr. Alexander Keese
Centro de Estudos Africanos da Universidade do Porto (CEAUP)
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