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SWAB Report Summary

Project ID: 313737
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Italy

Final Report Summary - SWAB (Shadows of Slavery in West Africa and Beyond. A Historical Anthropology)

“Shadows of Slavery in West Africa and beyond” has enriched the understanding of the consequences of nineteenth century slaveries and slave trade through the study of their connections/disconnections with contemporary forms of slavery-like exploitation and subjection. This has expanded the study of the ‘afterlives of slavery’ beyond the Atlantic world by historicizing contemporary manifestations of socioeconomic inequality, political marginalization, exploitation, and chattellization of individuals and groups that directly or indirectly call into question past histories of slavery and the slave trade in Western and Northern Africa, Southern Europe, the Indian Ocean and Central Asia.
The research group has combined anthropological and historical methodologies, and has privileged the analysis of people's experiences and perspectives. Fresh ethnographic and historical case-studies from Gambia and Senegal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Madagascar, Morocco, Southern Italy, Chad, Tunisia, and Ghana have revealed the multiple ways in which local memories of slavery inform and reshape contemporary social hierarchies and practices of political and economic marginalization. Our effort has included the gendered nature of subordination and the implications of domestic work in the social construction of individual and gendered selves in different contexts and periods. We have looked at the historical circumstances under which socioeconomic marginality turns into a political resource. Together, we have inaugurated a discussion on the examples of descent-based and racial discrimination stemming out of the ashes of historical slavery and the slave trade. Our methodological approach has brought to the fore the voices of slave descendants and their own understandings of individual and collective social trajectories. A large number of publications, the organization of four international workshops, panels and participation in national and international workshops, have contributed to the dissemination of scientific results, and helped us strengthen the network of our interlocutors inside and outside the academy.

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