A number of recent studies have highlighted how states across the African continent continued to revert to repressive labor practices for the sake of food production, cash-cropping, territorial expansion and infrastructural development during the late colonial and postcolonial period. Yet, the focus has mostly been on colonial continuities. This article investigates coercive labor as a deliberate but concealed part of a national rally for increased agricultural productivity in Liberia of the 1960s. Operation Production, which began in 1963, demanded the total participation of all of the populace and all sectors of the economy, yet, it especially targeted the farming population. The unfolding of the scheme was met with a vivacious response in both rural and urban society; amongst the rich and poor. However, different socioeconomic groups were requested to carry different burdens in the process. This exuberant reception, combined with the anchoring of the "modern" developmentalist narrative of integration and modernization in a way that spoke to many Liberians, was particularly useful for cloaking the systematic enforcement of repressive labor laws in the rural interior. Mechanisms such as new vagrancy legislation and the largely groundless declaration of a state of emergency further aided the expansion of compulsory agriculture at the hands of rural authorities.


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pp. 147-172
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