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The Slave Emancipation Problematic: Igbo Society and the Colonial Equation

  • G. UGO NWOKEJI

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The slave emancipation problem in colonial contexts, such as the Igbo case in Igboland, south-eastern Nigeria, deserves attention because there are too few relevant studies (Brown 1996; Nwaka 1985; Ohadike 1988). These studies spotlight wage labor above other aspects of the emancipation question. This approach is justified because the colonial anti-slavery policy there centred on the promotion and control of wage labour. The wage labour focus is useful in explaining what the colonial state did, although it does say little about what the state avoided, and why. There was much more to the emancipation question than labour formation and control. The control of land, a critical element of class formation and reproduction in a post-emancipation agrarian situation, was the fundamental arena of conflict in post-abolition colonial Africa (see Cooper 1980; Klein 1993c). In other words, while the most effective means to achieve emancipation was land tenure reform, the colonial state chose to pursue the proletarianization strategy. This essay will examine why this was so.

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The Slave Emancipation Problematic: Igbo Society and the Colonial Equation

  • G. UGO NWOKEJI

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