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Lecture | LIMS seminar

Immobile Nations: Independence and the Collapse of Labour Migration Systems in Southern Africa, c.1960-2020

Friday 29 April 2022
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2021-2022
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

Industrial mining drove mass migration across Southern Africa from the late nineteenth century until the late twentieth century. Scholarship on migration tends to focus on states or migrants themselves, but here private companies played the central role. The mining industry established organisations that facilitated the movement of enormous numbers of people around the region. Often, only a minority of the industry’s workforce were nationals of the country where they worked, and this was particularly pronounced in South Africa. ‘Miner’ and ‘migrant’ were virtually synonymous in Southern Africa. 

This is no longer the case. Today, most mining industry employees in the mining industry are nationals of the country where they work and there has been a major change in recruitment and employment policies. In this presentation, Duncan Money examines the shift from a system facilitating migration to a system restricting it. He argues that political independence was accompanied with efforts to create national labour markets where employment opportunities within new national boundaries were reserved for citizens of that nation. This idea has become ever-more important in recent decades. This occurred alongside demographic change and a momentous shift from labour scarcity to labour surplus during the 1970s. 

Migration around the region continues on a large scale. Movement across borders, however, is increasingly criminalised and popular attitudes towards migrants remain hostile. This increasing illegality of migration has enormous consequences for millions of people across the region and access to employment. The mining industry remains one of the largest formal-sector employers across the region. While it has become commonplace to describe the region’s borders as porous, these borders have become rigid and salient in the lives of millions of people. 


The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

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