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Post-Slavery Societies Workshop

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact for Dr FM Becker.

16-17 December 2014

The rapid rise and fall of plantation slavery in East Africa between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries profoundly affected East African history during this period. But slavery quickly disappears from sight once the labour regime the term denoted disintegrated. Neither former slaves nor colonial rulers were keen to vent the issue. At independence, too, the history of slavery, while far from absent, was evoked less readily in East than in West Africa.

Yet we know that slavery lingered. It shaped colonial agricultural policy in Kenya and Zanzibar, and in the early 1960s individual slave antecedents were still widely known and their status implications significant. The rhetorical invocation of the history of slavery formed part of Zanzibar’s vicious political contests around independence, and the experience of slavery also informed the growth of both Muslim and Christian communities. Moreover, existing work on the aftermath of slavery makes clear is that paths to emancipation and settlements between ex-masters and ex-slaves differed greatly between places. See, for instance, the persistence of slavery-derived status differences in Lamu versus their obsolescence in Lindi and their ambivalent, toxic afterlife in Zanzibar.

This workshop is convened so as to focus in on slavery as a factor in the history of East African societies after official emancipation and think about its ramifications broadly, to explore these variations and their causes, and to further trace the lingering presence of slavery in the history of the region.

This talk is part of the Post-Slavery Societies Workshop series.

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