[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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