Poverty and dependency, or dependency and poverty? Living in the shadows of slavery (Kolda region, Southern Senegal)
Alice Bellagamba (University of Milan-Bicocca)
Paper short abstract:
Historical and anthropological research carried out among people of slave ancestry in Southern Senegal helps to include the thorny issue of the legacies of slavery in contemporary anthropological discussions on the significance of dependency in the contemporary global economy.
Paper long abstract:
Research on post-slavery West African contexts has shown that the social condition of 'being a slave' did not necessarily end with the legal abolition of slavery in colonial times. Emancipation was real, of course. But in many cases slavery turned into a form of voluntary dependency that has spilled over generations: today, there are people that cultivate their reciprocal social and moral obligations as 'slaves' and 'masters'. Why do they allow this painful past to inhabit their present? Historical and anthropological research among people of slave ancestry in the Senegalese region of Kolda allows this paper to question the long term and changing connection between poverty and the kinds of relatedness, which stem from the local history of slavery. Labor obligations between 'slaves' and 'masters' ended in the late 1950s, but political, economic and social collaboration between the two social categories has been reinvented up to the present. Has poverty pushed people to bear the legacies of slavery or are these legacies among the causes of poverty? This thorny question is a good testing ground for contemporary anthropological discussions on the value of social obligations and the significance of dependency in the contemporary global economy.
Reconceptualising labour and dependency: beyond the working and non-working poor