Urban elites and the legacies of slavery 
Valerio Colosio (University of Sussex - Universita di Milano - Bicocca)
Marta Scaglioni (Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca)
Send message to Convenors
Alice Bellagamba (University of Milan-Bicocca)
Start time:
30 June, 2017 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel analyses class relationships in urban contexts in light of post-slavery social relationships and labour dynamics. Focusing on various phenomena (migrations, neoliberal social polarization, gentrification), it explores the legacies of slavery in the daily lives of urban elites.

Long Abstract

Post-slavery studies have begun to explore the exclusion of slave-descendants and other marginal groups in African urban contexts. Research has assessed migration to cities as a strategy of upward mobility, and showed that it has not always resulted in social emancipation. Often, people of slave ancestry have ended up filling the ranks of the Lumpenproletariat that carves out a living onto the margins of urban economies or serves in the houses of wealthy classes. The uninvited guest of these discussions is the elite itself. Its wealth attracts the dispossessed of the cities, while its style of life sets the standards of social success: travels, consumer goods, magnificent houses, and a long list of other luxuries. Relations with the legacies of slavery are controversial: descendants of family slaves, or people that perform this role, are a status symbol for elites' families, who longs to strengthen his social pedigree. Yet, extended social relations are hard to maintain, and a whole set of tactics has developed to keep people's request of assistance at bay. We invite contributions that explore these micro - dynamics through fresh ethnographic data. We wish to cover various areas of Africa, in order to develop a comparative analysis. We also appreciate interventions on non-African countries affected by the spread of new forms of domestic labour, by the growing gentrification in urban contexts, by the neoliberal polarization of society, and by a recent quantitative leap of migratory phenomena, related to various causes (conflicts, draughts, amelioration of transports).

Accepted papers: