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The Thin Red Line between Indentured and Bonded Labour: Javanese Workers in New Caledonia in the Early 20th Century

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This short article presents a relatively unknown historical experience of indentured labour having seen thousands of Javanese workers being sent from the end of the 19th century to the outbreak of WWII by the colonial authorities of the Netherlands Indies to New Caledonia, a French colony in the south-west Pacific. Being drawn from a comprehensive study of historical sociology written in French and published in 2006, it summarises the reasons behind this odd labour migration movement and focuses on the recruitment and working conditions of these indentured labourers. Its main argument is to show that there are many points of comparison between past and present forms of labour migration and that one finds some elements of bondage in both of them, the red line being therefore very thin indeed between indentured labour of the colonial period and present day globalisation migrant workers recruitment and employment practices.

Affiliations: 1: Institut de Hautes Etudes Internationales et du Développement (IHEID)


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