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Researching the Aftermath of Slavery in Mainland East Africa: Methodological, Ethical, and Practical Challenges

Becker, F; Nyanto, SS; Giblin, J; McDougall, A; Meckelburg, A; Pelckmans, L; (2022) Researching the Aftermath of Slavery in Mainland East Africa: Methodological, Ethical, and Practical Challenges. Slavery and Abolition 10.1080/0144039X.2022.2121888. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines ethical, practical, and methodological challenges in researching the aftermath of slavery in continental East Africa away from the coastal plantation belt. Interest in post-slavery there is recent and inspired by the apparent contrast with West Africa, where the issue is much more salient. The article explains this silence by highlighting politically-motivated avoidance of the issue in colonial sources and the preference of post-colonial historians for ‘useful’ pasts. Further, it questions the balance of successful integration and continuing marginalization reflected in the apparent obsolescence of slavery. It argues that tracing the trajectories of ex-slaves requires attention to all forms of social inequality and dependency, to the potential status implications for informants of speaking about slavery, and to the variety of terms and fields of meaning relevant to freedom, unfreedom and dependency. Recent research in this vein shows that slave antecedents remain a matter of aibu, shame, and that ex-slaves’ disappearance as a social category took lifelong efforts on their part. While the social valence of slave antecedents is relatively limited in mainland East Africa, slavery remains a problematic and painful heritage that demands great circumspection by researchers.

Type: Article
Title: Researching the Aftermath of Slavery in Mainland East Africa: Methodological, Ethical, and Practical Challenges
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/0144039X.2022.2121888
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/0144039X.2022.2121888
Language: English
Additional information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Keywords: Slavery, memory, post-slavery, research methods, ethical questions, East Africa
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10158659
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