[JOURNAL SPECIAL] “Labour Crossings in Eastern and Southern Africa” (Peter Alexander, Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt, eds., 2009)

Peter Alexander, Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt (eds.), 2009, Labour Crossings in Eastern and Southern Africa, special issue of African Studies (volume 68, number 1)


This special presents papers from the international conference ‘Labour Crossings: World, Work, Society’, organised by the History Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand, and the Centre for Sociological Research, University of Johannesburg, in September 2008. The intellectual agenda of the conference was to explore a wide range of ‘labour crossings’: between time periods, between regions and continents, between types of work, and types of worker, both free and unfree, between different imagined worlds, religion and labour, and gender and class – as well as between intellectual disciplines and traditions. The transnational turn in labour history was a key influence on the framing of the issues. Looking globally, and thinking beyond the traditional analytical framework of the nation-state, the very character of the ‘working class’ and its ‘making’ (Thompson ) needs to be rethought.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Labour Crossings in Eastern and Southern Africa (Peter Alexander, Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt)

2. Slavery and Freedom in Nineteenth Century East Africa: The case of Waungwana caravan porters (Stephen J. Rockel)

3. The Passenger Indian as Worker: Indian immigrants in Cape Town in the early twentieth century (Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie)

4. The Limits of Law in the Mandated Territories: Becoming manamba and the struggles of sisal plantation workers in Tanganyika (Hanan Sabea)

5. Competitive Labour: Divisions between Zambian and Zimbabwean workers (Andrea L. Arrington)

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[JOURNAL SPECIAL] “Assessing the Politics of Organized Labour in Asia, Africa and Latin America at the Start of the 21st Century” (Devan Pillay and Lucien van der Walt, eds., 2011)

Devan Pillay and Lucien van der Walt (eds.), 2011, Assessing the Politics of Organized Labour in Asia, Africa and Latin America at the Start of the 21st Century, special issue of Labour, Capital and Society, volume 44, number 2


This special edition, which draws together studies of workers’ struggles in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia and South Africa, provides the basis for an assessment of the politics of organized labour at the start of the 21st century. The papers in this collection are drawn from a highly successful September 2011 Global Labour University conference on “The Politics of Labour and Development”, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. On the basis of the studies, we argue for the importance of unions, despite their contradictions, as an irreplaceable force for progressive social change for the popular classes. Post-colonial ruling classes have been active authors of the neoliberal agenda, at the expense of the working class. The current context affirms the centrality of unions, and of organized workers more generally as it is union struggles – and alliances with other sectors of the popular classes – that make the Standard Employment Relationship possible. The more the fracturing of the popular classes is challenged by linking unions to other popular class forces, the more successful such struggles become.

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction / Introduction de la rédactrice (Suzanne Dansereau)

1. Contributing Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue: Assessing the Politics of Organized Labour in Asia, Africa and Latin America at the Start of the 21st Century (Devan Pillay and Lucien Van Der Walt)

2. The Influence of Organized Labour in the Rise to Power of Lula in Brazil and Correa in Ecuador (Daniel Hawkins)

3. The Enduring Embrace: COSATU and the Tripartite Alliance during the Zuma era (Devan Pillay)

4. ‘World Class Cities for All’: Street traders as agents of union revitalization in contemporary South Africa (Ercüment Çelik)

5. Making Labour Voices Heard During an Industrial Crisis: Workers’ struggles in the Bangladesh garment industry (Pragya Khanna)

6. Informal Labour in India and Indonesia: Surmounting organizing barriers (John Folkerth and Tonia Warnecke)

7. The ‘Harmonious Society’ as a Hegemonic Project: Labour conflicts and changing labour policies in China (Elaine Sio-Ieng Hui and Chris King-Chi Chan)

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[JOURNAL SPECIAL] “Transnational and Comparative Perspectives on Southern African Labour History,” (Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt, eds., 2007)

Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt (eds.), 2007, Transnational and Comparative Perspectives on Southern African Labour History, special issue of African Studies (volume 66, numbers 2/3)


This volume repositions South African labour history within a global and regional framework, by examining comparisons and connections between the history of labour in South Africa, and in other parts of the world. It’s commitment to comparative and transnational approaches marks it as part of the rapidly growing field of global labour history, which is being driven by scholars in the so-called South – particularly Brazil, India and South Africa. Using innovative case studies that deal with South Africa in relation to India, to Latin America, to Australia, and to Eastern, Northern and Southern Africa, the papers collected in this volume break new theoretical ground by raising questions about some of the fundamental categories of labour history — precapitalist versus capitalist, freedom versus unfreedom, nationality versus borderlands, internationalism versus state formation, north versus south, cheap versus aristocratic labour — all of which appear in a new light when viewed from a global perspective. New Worlds of Labour highlights the theoretical gains that can be made by moving beyond national constraints, and is at the cutting edge of the current revival and re-imagining of labour and working class history.

Table of contents

1. Rethinking World of Labour: Southern African labour history in international context (Philip Bonner, Jonathan Hyslop and Lucien van der Walt)

2. Labour History: The old, the new, and the global (Marcel van der Linden)

3. Labour History in India and South Africa: Some affinities and contrasts (Sumit Sarkar)

4. Women and Coal Mining in India and South Africa, c1900-1940 (Peter Alexander)

5. The First Globalisation and Transnational Labour Activism in Southern Africa: White labourism, the IWW, and the ICU, 1904-1934 (Lucien van der Walt)

6. Workers and the Beginnings of Welfare State-building in Argentina and South Africa (Jeremy Seekings)

7. Towards a Concrete East African Trade Union Federation: History, prospects and constraints (George Gona)

8. Urban Activists and Rural Movements: Communists in South Africa and Algeria, 1920s-1930s (Allison Drew)

9. Towards a Gendered and Raced Socialist Internationalism: Dora Montefiore encounters South Africa, 1912-14 (Karen Hunt)

10. Comparative Aspects of Farm Labour in 20th Century Botswana (Wazha G. Morapedi)

11. Out of Time: The National Union of Metalworker’s pursuit of power, 1989-1995 (Kally Forrest)

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