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Call for Papers

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Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of Africa
The date of the workshop has been set ( 16th and 17th of December 2002) and it will be held at the Centre de Recherches Africaines, 9 rue Malher , in the part of Paris called le arais (in the 4th arrondissement, Metro St Paul, telephone: 01 44 78 33 41).

The study of slavery is one of the main themes of African History. Two fields are particularly clear : the history of the slave trade from Africa to the rest of the world and the history of slavery in Africa itself. Neither has received enough attention in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

 Some studies deal with the slave trade organised by the Sudanese or by subjects of the sultan of Zanzibar. But the extraction and exportation of slaves from the Great Lakes Region remains quite marginal in those studies. Authors focusing on the trade from Egyptian Sudan have neglected the area located in contemporary Uganda and concentrated on regions more to the North or the North West. These areas are located in today’s republic of Sudan or in Chad where, Rabaï, one of the Sudanese slave traders and empire builders, has become famous. The same can be said about the trade to Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean : without totally ignoring the Great Lakes Region (see for example Marissal, J. “Le commerce Zanzibarite dans l’Afrique des Grands Lacs au XIXe siècle”. Revue Francaise d’Histoire d’Outre-Mer, 1978, vol.LXV, n°239, p.212-255) scholars have turned to regions more to the South or to the West, in parts of today’s Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique or to the spectacular trade of the Congo Basin. In the Great Lakes Region, slave traders were more compelled to negotiate with African leaders than in neighbouring areas. This area of studies has been somewhat neglected by scholars specialised in the slave trade.

 Slavery within the Great Lakes societies has attracted even less attention. Gerald Hartwig ("Changing forms of servitude among the Kerebe of Tanzania", in Miers S, Kopytoff I, Slavery in Africa, 1977) wrote a very interesting article on the forms of slavery in Bukerebe. Christopher Wrigley (Kingship and the State, the Buganda dynasty, 1997) and Jan Vansina (Le Rwanda ancien, 2001) mention the importance of predation for Buganda and Rwanda, but they give few details. Michael Twaddle has written two provocative papers ("The ending of slavery in Buganda", in Miers S, Kopytoff I, Slavery in Africa, 1977 and "Slaves and peasants in Buganda", in Archer L, Slavery and Other Forms of Unfree Labour, 1988). According to him, Buganda and probably most of the other states of the region were societies based on slavery. Either his theory is correct and the understanding of the political organisation of the region as a whole, based mainly on clientship, should be revisited, or Michael Twaddle has gone too far and we must explain the weakness or the absence of slavery in this part of Africa. We wish to contribute to this debate.

 Our aim is to understand the social role and the diffusion of these forms of servitude in the Great Lakes Region. Slavery is not a uniform phenomenon. Obviously, there are different categories of dependants. The relationship between these and slavery must be assessed. These social categories can also evolve in time. The limits between a free man and a slave are not always clear-cut. These statuses can be temporary and can change during a life time. It is attested that captives were taken in varying numbers in different places, probably in great numbers in the more military states (Buganda, Rwanda, Bunyoro...). They were also acquired through exchange networks (Ukerewe...). During the XIXth century, some of the victims were exported through the international trade networks, but not all of them. Many were kept to satisfy a regional demand. What happened to the slaves that were kept ? Did they constitute a specific and enduring group ? Or were they integrated into the rest of the society ? If so, how ? by blood brotherhood ? by the clientship structure ? by marriage ? etc. The coming of Zanzibari and Sudanese trade and their growth also had consequences upon the local forms of slavery. If we follow Manning’s hypothesis about Africa in general (Slavery and African Life, 1990), one might wonder whether the international slave trade cannot explain the birth and expansion of local slavery in the region. This could explain, according to the level of integration into the slave trade during the XIXth century, the differences between the kingdoms where slavery was almost unknown and those where it was flourishing. Because of the nature of available sources, the danger of projecting into a far away past the effects of a trade dating usually only from the second half of the XIXth century is quite real. The opposite is also true, it is also quite common to wrongly attribute all innovations in the region to foreigners.

 The aim of this call for papers is to accumulate knowledge, to be able to compare the forms of servitude within the Great Lakes Region and also to define a number of conflicting interpretations. Keeping in mind the recent progress of knowledge on slavery in Africa and in the rest of the world, the papers could take the shape of case studies of kingdoms, of groups of kingdoms (Busoga, Buhaya,...), or of smaller areas or even of life histories. Other articles could deal with broader fields or use different methods, for example linguistics, slave trade, demography, sources, contemporary discourse on slavery, or other themes. A comparative approach will help in the understanding of the current debate on slavery.

 The core geographical focus will be on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, North West Tanzania, South and West Uganda) although contributions on areas bordering these regions or in contact with them (wide areas in Tanzania and Uganda, Congo’s Eastern fringe, Western Kenya …) are also welcome.

An abstract of the proposed paper (about one page) and questions should be mailed to Henri Médard before the end of the month of June 2002, either by e-mail to hv.medard@wanadoo.fr or by regular mail to the following address :
75 rue Danton, 93 100 Montreuil, France.
(Telephone : 01 55 86 21 35)

The papers are expected before the month of June 2003. An informal workshop is planned for those who wish to attend the 16th and 17th of december 2002 in Paris in the historical neighbourhood of Le Marais at the Centre de Recherche Africaine (9 rue Malher, 4e arrondissement, Metro St Paul, telephone: 01 44 78 33 41).

 Provisional list of participants :

David Schoenbrun, University of Northwestern
Jean Pierre Chrétien, Centre de Recherche Africaine, CNRS,
Christian Thibon, Université de Pau et du Pays de l'Adour
Edward Steinhart, University of Texas Tech
Justin Willis, University of Durham
Shane Doyle, University of Cambridge
Claudia Mattalucci, University of Milano
Richard Reid, University of Asmara
Michael Tuck, University of North Estearn Illinois
Holly Hanson, Mont Holyoke College
Michèle Wagner, University of Minesota
Jean Marie Nduwayo, Université du Burundi
Michael Twaddle, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
Mark Leopold, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Henri Médard, Centre de Recherche Africaine, Université de Paris I


Department of History, York University,  Toronto, Canada
Email: nigerian@yorku.ca
Fax: (416) 650-8173