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Call for Papers: "Resistance to Slavery in Africa: Past and Present"

Conference organised by SOAS, University of London (London), 23-24 October 2023

Twenty years have passed since the publication of Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies, the major collection of essays edited by Sylviane Diouf (2003). While the historiography of resistance in Africa has a much longer history with major publications dating back to the 1970s, the scholarship on resistance to slavery in Africa since Diouf’s volume has remained quite dispersed with no cross-regional comparison. This symposium is to take stock of the current scholarship on resistance to slavery across the African continent, both past and present. Papers on a wide variety of individual and collective practices of resistance against slavery in all its forms in all regions of Africa are invited. Slavery is understood as historical, categorical and contemporary forms of extreme dependence and inequality exercised through violence in labour relations, social systems and modes of productions. This purview thus includes the different historical continental and coastal slave trades, to the institution of slavery as practiced on the continent to current legacies of these historical forms of slavery on the African continent (e.g. descent-based slavery), also called in some instances post-slavery, and other forms of modern slavery such as debt bondage, domestic and indentured labour. The aim of the symposium is to re-explore the very idea and concept of resistance to slavery in a cross-regional comparative perspective. Debates about collective forms of resistance to slavery in Africa appear to have faded in the face of a focus on individual agency and everyday resistance. By depicting especially complex individualised trajectories of agency within the ‘kinship continuum’ (Miers & Kopytoff 1977), research has tended to lose sight of resistance and the fundamental oppressive and violent nature of slavery. The aim is to highlight the complex relations between the individual and the collective in their response to the institution of slavery - whether as social system, form of labour, or mode of production. 

Deadline: 17 July 2023