Jeudi 8 avril 2021 à 17 h : Gareth Curless (University of Exeter), “Labour, Decolonization and Class: Re-Making Colonial Workers at the End of the British Empire”
The strikes and labour riots that swept through the empire during the late 1930s are widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of British imperialism. According to conventional histories, the unrest was a catalyst for a major reorientation of not just colonial labour policy but colonial attitudes towards social and economic development in the empire. Gareth Curless reconsiders this established narrative, using comparative case studies from Singapore, British Guiana and the Gold Coast.
While accepting that colonial states intervened more directly in the social and economic spheres of colonial rule after the late 1930s, Gareth Curless argues that these policies emerged out of pre-existing policies and debates in both London and the colonies, which in some instances can be traced back to the late 19th century; as the civilising mission gave way to the language of modernisation, colonial labour regimes continued to be concerned with the control, regulation and reproduction of African and Asian workers. Curless shows that the power of the colonial state was not absolute, however, considering African and Asian workers who frequently practiced more subterranean or `everyday’ forms of resistance such as absenteeism, industrial sabotage, theft and go-slow protests. He emphasises the role of class and `ordinary’ Africans and Asians, focusing on the emergence of class identity and consciousness as a result of struggles between colonial workers and employers and the state.
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