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Violence as UsualPolicing and the Colonial State in German Southwest Africa$
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Marie Muschalek

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501742859

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501742859.001.0001

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Policing Work

Policing Work

Violent Regulation of the Labor Market

(p.130) Chapter 5 Policing Work
Violence as Usual

Marie Muschalek

Cornell University Press

This chapter concerns how this practice of (violent) improvisation played out in one important field of police activity, namely, the regulation of the labor market. After the genocidal war, African labor was scarce. It fell to the police to capture those African men, women, and children who were still hoping to escape colonial control and to force them (back) into the semi-free wage labor economy. Further, police were charged to organize the distribution of workers among employers and to oversee their treatment on site. Concerning the treatment, or better, mistreatment of African labor, scholarship has fallen short in explaining the role the state played. The narrative of a stinted but genuine liberalizing effort through rudimentary protective labor laws by the German colonial government in the face of cruel and exploitative conduct by farmers, company owners, and foremen does not account for the complexities of violence. Colonial violence was not just excessively applied by some and limited by some others. The state, represented by its policemen, played a crucial role in fine-tuning labor coercion. It established a moral economy of normalized violence that was economically viable.

Keywords:   labor market, African labor, wage labor economy, colonial violence, normalized violence, labor laws, labor coercion

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