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Enslaved pasts - imagined futures: trajectories of emancipation and abolition in 19th and 20th century tropical Africa 
Margot Luyckfasseel (Vrije Universiteit BrusselBelgian State Archives)
Salvatory Nyanto (University of Dar es Salaam)
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Felicitas Becker (Gent University)
History (x) Inequality (y)
Philosophikum, S66
Saturday 3 June, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the imagined futures and possible emancipatory trajectories of enslaved Africans in the late 19th and 20th century. What emancipatory tracks offered the perspective of improved living conditions and a future beyond slavery? And to what extent were these promises fulfilled?

Long Abstract:

In 1882, the notorious East and Central African slaver known as Tippo Tip discussed the conditions of slavery with the Belgian official Jerome Becker. While Tippo Tip argued that the working conditions of his enslaved personnel and those of European servants were not fundamentally different, Becker insisted that the fact that servants were free while slaves were not made a profound difference (Harms 2019). The question of notions of freedom and belonging in relation to former slaves has stayed with African studies.

This panel proposes to analyse the imagined futures and possible emancipatory trajectories of enslaved people and ex-slaves in post-abolition Africa, focusing on tropical Africa. Changing trade networks, developing colonial regimes, missionaries, the cash crop revolution, urbanization, changing regimes of land access, and new local elites: the context of the late 19th and early 20th century induced rapid changes in power constellations, and thereby new constraints and possibilities regarding personal autonomy and working conditions. In this context, what emancipatory tracks offered the perspective of a better future? And to what extent were these promises fulfilled? Is it methodologically feasible to know how enslaved Africans imagined and pursued those new perspectives? Was respect within the restrictions of their bondage more important than their freedom, as Gooding (2019) suggests? How did gender, religion, or descent figure in defining what emancipatory trajectories were accessible to whom? This panel welcomes papers that discuss cases from tropical Africa to examine the imagined futures of enslaved Africans from a historical perspective.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -
Session 2 Saturday 3 June, 2023, -