Reconfiguring Slavery

BookReconfiguring Slavery

Reconfiguring Slavery

West African Trajectories

Liverpool Studies in International Slavery, 2


February 26th, 2016



Other Formats



Reconfiguring Slavery focuses on the range of trajectories followed by slavery as an institution since the various abolitions of the nineteenth century. It also considers the continuing and multi-faceted strategies that descendants of both owners and slaves have developed to make what use they can of their forebears’ social positions, or to distance themselves from them. Reconfiguring Slavery contains both anthropological and historical contributions that present new empirical evidence on contemporary manifestations of slavery and related phenomena in Mauritania, Benin, Niger, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and the Gambia. As a whole, the volume advances a renewed conceptual framework for understanding slavery in West Africa today: instead of retracing the end of West African slavery, this work highlights the preliminary contours of its recent reconfigurations.


'This stimulating collection for West African scholars provides an abundance of examples of the transformations in traditional forms of slavery covering the range of possibilities, from formerly subjugated groups that now have the upper hand over their former masters to situations where traditional forms of symbolic and financial domination still prevail.'

Current Anthropology Volume 51, Number 5

'This is an exceptionally interesting book. It breaks new ground and makes a significant contribution to slavery and, more particularly, post-slavery studies.'
Suzanne Miers

'An important contribution to Africanist scholarship ... it has every chance of achieving the reconfiguration prefigured in its title.'
P. F. Moraes Farias, University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham

'Reconfiguring Slavery has broad academic and non-academic appeal.'

African Affairs, vol 110, no 440

'Benedetta Rossi’s analysis bridges an important gap in the conceptualisation of slavery in the history and contemporary politics of West Africa.'
Paul Lovejoy, Slavery and Abolition, vol. 31, no. 4

Slavery and Abolition, vol. 31, no. 4

'In a varied but coherent collection of case studies to which Benedetta Rossi’s stimulating introduction does full justice, the red thread is that of the multitude of ways in which the descendants of slaves attempt to evade the heritage of the past, how they negotiate the vestiges of the stigma in their contemporary lives, often in paradoxical and ambiguous ways.'
Roger Botte, Africa, Vol. 80, No, 3

Africa, Vol. 80, No, 3

'Reconfiguring Slavery has broad academic and non-academic appeal ... the content and accessible language make the text appropriate for undergraduate courses on globalization, post-colonial Africa, and poverty and inequality. Specialists of Africa and slavery will benefit from the innovative theories and methodologies that the essayists employ. In addition, the interpretations of slavery are beneficial to humanitarian organizations currently working in Africa.'

African Affairs

'Reconfiguring Slavery is an important book that provides rich insight into processes of emancipation and the legacies of slavery in West Africa. Most chapters draw heavily on the testimony of former slaves or slave descendants, which gives special liveliness to the difficult conceptual issues under consideration. The book has much to offer for comparisons between slavery in West Africa and in other world regions, in particular perhaps in Asian settings. Many chapters in the volume also shed light on the impact and reach of Western imperialism in Africa. Reconfiguring Slavery will find its readers mainly among scholars specializing in African studies and slave studies, but teachers of world history courses interested in Africa will also find the book rewarding and stimulating even though the chapters do not make for suitable readings in undergraduate college courses.'
Claus K. Meyer, World History Connected

Author Information

Dr Benedetta Rossi is Lecturer in African Studies in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures8
Notes on Contributors9
A Note on Language12
Preface to the Second Edition14
1 Introduction: Rethinking Slavery in West Africa Benedetta Rossi20
2 Slave Descent and Social Statusin Sahara and Sudan Martin A. Klein45
3 African American Psychologists, the Atlantic Slave Trade and Ghana: A History of the PresentTom McCaskie64
4 After Abolition: Metaphors of Slavery in the Political History of the Gambia Alice Bellagamba82
5 Islamic Patronage and Republican Emancipation: The Slaves of the Almaamiin the Senegal River Valley104
6 Curse and Blessing: On Post-slavery Modes of Perception and Agency in Benin135
7 Contemporary Trajectories of Slavery in Haalpulaar Society (Mauritania)159
8 Slavery and Politics: Stigma,Decentralisation and Political Representation in Niger and Benin171
9 Slavery and Migration: Social and Physical Mobility in Ader (Niger)201
10 Discourses on Slavery: Reflections on Forty Years of Research226
Glossary of Foreign Words244