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Job: Research Fellow: "African Abolitionism: The Rise and Transformations of Anti-Slavery in Africa (AFRAB)"

Department of History – University College London

The UCL Department of History is recruiting to the post of Research Fellow - African Abolitionism: The Rise and Transformations of Anti-Slavery in Africa (AFRAB).

Start date: 01 October 2020


AFRAB studies the rise and transformations of African abolitionism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Slavery was a major institution in all African regions throughout the whole of the 19th century. The majority of studies of slavery and abolition in Africa focuses on colonial anti-slavery legislation and abolitionist actions. By contrast, the history of African abolitionists and their struggles to end slavery in different African societies and regions largely remains to be written. Following decolonization, all African independent states passed anti-slavery laws and ratified the relevant international conventions. Little is known, however, about the localised trajectories of abolitionist ideas and strategies in Africa. When did African ruling classes, intellectuals, commoners, enslaved persons and persons of slave descent begin to challenge the legitimacy of slavery for all humans within their own societies? Who were the main African abolitionists, what logics did they develop, and in what networks did they operate? What resistances did they encounter?

AFRAB is funded through an ERC Advanced Research grant that runs from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2025. The core Network team is composed of: Principal Investigator, three Postdoctoral Research Fellows, five Research Assistants and a 0.20 FTE Project Administrator at UCL. This team of researchers will collect and analyse data on the main African abolitionist actors and ideas in four regions of concentrated research focus: (1) Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria, (2) Ethiopia, (3) Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, (4) Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Niger. Dynamics in these regions will be contextualised at a continental (African) and global level to study interconnections and develop comparisons. Four major thematic streams dealing respectively with legal, political, economic, and cultural dimensions cut across regionally focused research. These transversal themes will be the focus of AFRAB’s four yearly conferences.

AFRAB’s main research objectives are:

1) to identify and critically analyse sources on African abolitionism

2) to compare the main legal steps and struggles for the abolition of slavery across all project regions

3) to investigate the economic rationales of abolitionist and pro-slavery discourses in African societies

4) to study African abolitionism as a political process in its local, regional, and global dimensions

5) to identify African abolitionist cultures and develop a semantic analysis of discourses of abolition in African languages

Job description

The successful candidate will work as part of a team with the Principal Investigator, two other Research Fellows, five Research Assistants, and the Project Administrator. He/she will lead research in one of AFRAB’s regions of concentrated research, namely, the region including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. He/ she will work in this region for three months a year during the first three years. His/her responsibilities will include, though not necessarily be confined to:

  • supervising the activities of a Research Assistant in his/her project region during years 1-3 and mentoring the Research Assistant in collaboration with the PI;
  • contributing research findings from his/her region to the team’s meetings and engaging in the analysis of data collected by other members of the AFRAB team for comparative purposes;
  • networking and liaising with colleagues and researchers specialising on relevant topics in universities and other relevant institutions in his/her project region;
  • leading on the organisation of one of the four conferences (in his/her region of research) focused on the historical semantic analysis of African abolitionist cultures (planned for September 2024);
  • collaborating with the team in planning and organising collaborative events and outputs for the Project;
  • contributing to the Network’s social media and online presence;
  • contributing to Project publications and reporting and to any other documentation formally required by funders.

Closing Date: 30 August 2020