What is a “Slave”? Neo-Abolitionism and the Shifting Meanings of Slavery in Two African Contexts (Highlands of Madagascar, Southern Senegal)

Autori: Alice Bellagamba, Marco Gardini
In: Africa. N.S. II/1, 2020
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Historical and ethnographic research in two post-slavery African contexts, the Highlands of Madagascar and the Kolda region in Senegal, opens a window on the reaction of the grassroots to emerging human-trafficking/modern slavery discourses, which in both countries have thrived in response to the “neo-abolitionist” stances of the US Department of State and other humanitarian organizations since the early 2000s. The analysis of the resignification of vernacular lexicons for a slave after the legal abolition of slavery in colonial times is a precondition for understanding why the people who still face the consequences of a slave past are often the most reluctant to address their contemporary predicament in terms of human trafficking/modern slavery. Patterns of continuity and discontinuity between histories of slavery and the slave trade and contemporary marginalities are understandable only through the careful historical and ethnographic examination of the cycles of emancipation and re-subjection that have characterized the exit from slavery in these two African contexts.

keywords: slavery, post-slavery, terminology, human trafficking, historicity