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Keywords:

  • control;
  • labor geography;
  • mine compounds;
  • South Africa;
  • worker's agency

Abstract:  At the core of colonial and apartheid social engineering was a spatial strategy based on institutions and infrastructure linking together rural homesteads and villages, and mining centers and towns. In the case of the mining industry, single-sex compounds were set up as the foundation of the infrastructure of control over black labor. In this paper we examine how various forms of control operated. We locate our contribution within the labor geography literature. We argue that it was not only state institutions and major corporations that shaped landscapes of control. In this regard we highlight the centrality of workers’ agency, specifically the way in which the National Union of Mineworkers captured the compounds and subverted the logic of employer control. However, the union's successes as well as the advent of democracy have resulted in profound changes, thus presenting the union with new challenges.