Accueil > Research > Theme 3. Mobility, Memory and relation to Territory

Program 3.1. “Recurrences of slavery”

Researchers : M-P. Ballarin, G. Bonacci, M-J. Jolivet

Here we will be interested in the heritage of slavery in the contemporary period, in the long term repercussions of a forced migration, that of the slave trade, and in the contemporary recompositions of society and identity born of these changes.

Taking into account the enduring strength of the status of slave, which has become a social category that is often concealed, allows us to envision the permanence of its effects in the social and economic fields. Today, ignoring the composition and internal hierarchy of populations results in addressing them messages, subsequently, that can neither be understood nor have an impact. Several aspects emerge here such as the analysis of the context of production of the category slave/descendent of slaves ; reminiscences of former relations of dominance ; the socio-economic issues that ensue in terms of access to resources ; political struggles through narratives that are elaborated from discourse and historic events ; the use of ethnic and racial identities in social claims-making ; the reconfigurations of relationships to culture and to history ; and finally, the patrimonialization of these identities according to political and social aims… In the contemporary period, what becomes, in reality, of liberated slaves and their descendents, considered to be without either ancestors or land, or, alternatively, cut off through a new migration from ancestral lands that are recreated in situations of resistance or flight ? What are their social positions ? What images do they themselves convey, and how are they perceived by others ? Today what does this status – former slave – consist of, and how is it negotiated ? What strategies can we perceive, whether they be part of a strategy of concealment or, on the contrary, one of display, even claims-making ? What are the formal and informal discourses that are transmitted in the villages and urban neighborhoods known for housing servile populations ? The study of the narratives, the places and the figures associated with slavery and slave resistance, of the state of these memories – between the opposite poles of publicized memories and concealed memories – is determinant, in particular when the fruits of such analysis become a resource in identity politics.

This question will be addressed through the following research :

- The effect of slavery and the slave trade on contemporary Kenya (M-P. Ballarin)
- The return of descendents of slaves to Ethiopia : discourse and social practices (G. Bonacci)
- Modalities of change among the runaway slaves of Westen French Guyana (M-J. Jolivet)