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Abstract

In what ways and through what mechanisms and policy instruments did colonial regimes seek to draw Africans into the colonial economy as laborers, wage earners, taxpayers, and consumers of foreign manufactured goods? How successful were colonial efforts to reform access to agricultural land as a way of establishing a foundation for colonial agriculture, undermining preexisting but disfavored African land tenure practices, compelling taxation, and mobilizing African labor? This essay responds to these and related questions, surveying the main debates, key conceptual turns, and points of discussion on a critical aspect of colonial economic management in Africa: the commoditization of land and labor by colonial regimes and its consequences. The essay discusses the intertwinements of land and labor mobilization regimes, and the ways in which African maneuvers, initiatives, and strategies of self-preservation produced outcomes that confounded and at times defeated colonial intentions in matters of land and labor.