Discourses on Slavery: Reflections on Forty Years of Research

Philip Burnham

in Reconfiguring Slavery

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9781846311994
Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9781846315640 | DOI:
Discourses on Slavery: Reflections on Forty Years of Research

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This chapter examines the ever-changing discourses of slavery in West Africa based on the author's research spanning four decades. Drawing on his experiences of field research in Africa and the Caribbean, the author reflects on the social significance of contemporary usages of notions of ‘slavery’ that he has encountered in a variety of social contexts. He looks at a series of cases or instances drawn from his fieldnotes where he has encountered the term ‘slave/slavery’ on a regular basis, ranging from contested succession to a village chieftaincy to mobilisation of the word in situations of inter-ethnic conflict or extortion. The author also considers cases of contestation over natural resources and looks at a public festival in Trinidad celebrating the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. In addition, he focuses on the impacts of globalised discourses on slavery in Cameroon, where he conducted research on the Gbaya people in 1968–1970.

Keywords: West Africa; slavery; Cameroon; Trinidad; Gbaya; village chieftaincy; natural resources; festival; inter-ethnic conflict

Chapter.  8238 words. 

Subjects: Colonialism and Imperialism

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