The “Labour Question”, a well-known obsession pervading the archives of Africa, was posed by colonial rulers as a calculated question of scarcity and coercion. On the Spanish plantation island of Fernando Pó the shortage and coercive recruitment of labour was particularly intense. This article examines two distinct clandestine labour recruitment operations that took hold of Rio Muni and eastern Nigeria, on the east and the north of the Bight of Biafra. The trails of the recruitment networks were successfully constructed by the specifically aligned “mediators” of kinship, ethnicity, money, law, commodities, and administration. The conceptual focus on flat “mediators” follows Bruno Latour's sociology of associations and has been set against the concept of an “intermediary” that serves to join and uphold the structure/agency and global/local binaries.
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