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Bound for Work

Labor, Mobility, and Colonial Rule in Central Mozambique, 1940-1965
Zachary Kagan Guthrie

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813941547 · $45.00 · Oct 2018
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813941554 · $45.00 · Oct 2018

Diverging from the studies of southern African migrant labor that focus on particular workplaces and points of origin, Bound for Work looks at the multitude of forms and locales of migrant labor that individuals—under more or less coercive circumstances—engaged in over the course of their lives. Tracing Mozambican workers as they moved between different types of labor across Mozambique, Rhodesia, and South Africa, Zachary Kagan Guthrie places the multiple venues of labor in a single historical frame, expanding the regional historiography beyond the long shadow cast by the apartheid state while simultaneously exploring the continuities and fractures between South Africa, southern Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Kagan Guthrie’s holistic approach to migrant labor yields several important conclusions. First, he highlights the importance of workers’ choices, explaining not just why people moved but why they moved in the ways they did: how they calculated the benefits of one destination over another, and how they decided when circumstances made it necessary to move again. Second, his attention to mobility gives a much clearer view of the mechanisms of power available to colonial authorities, as well as the limits to their effectiveness. Finally, Kagan Guthrie suggests a new explanation for the divergent trajectories of southern and sub-Saharan Africa in the aftermath of World War II.


Zachary Kagan-Guthrie has written an engaging book that makes an important contribution to the history of Mozambique, southern Africa, and labor in Africa. The breadth of the research, combined with deft, careful thinking, means that this book is about far more than African labor. Kagan-Guthrie tells a story that traverses social, economic, political, and emotional terrain, offering readers a marvelous, three-dimensional view of workers’ lives.

Eric Allina, University of Ottawa, author of Slavery by Any Other Name: African Life under Company Rule in Colonial Mozambique

"A fascinating study of the lived experiences of migrant laborers trying to cope and creatively adapt to the harsh world of Portuguese colonialism. This book is essential reading for students of migrations interested not only in Mozambique and Southern Africa, but the continent as a whole."

Allen Isaacman, University of Minnesota, author of Dams, Displacement, and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965–2007

Guthrie’s book is an excellent work; it conveys, in often glowing prose, the complex social, legal, economic, and political worlds within which both colonial officers and African subjects navigated. Moreover, his work is informed by an acute sense of wanting to humanize and individualize those operating within the continued (yet constantly shifting) landscapes of labor—a world that was, nevertheless, reflective of a violent, racialized, and exploitative Portuguese colonial order. The book thereby evades both the pitfalls of revisionist accounts of colonialism as well as the reductionism of economically centered explanations of labor migrations. For theseaccomplishments, the book deserves a wide readership, and also one beyond academic circles.

American Historical Review

In this path breaking study, Guthrie offers a fresh perspective on laborhistoriography of Southern Africa. Based on extensive interviews as well was wide-ranging research in the colonial archive, Bound for Work offers an important insight into labormigration in central Mozambique.

African Studies Quarterly

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