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Open Access Legacies of Slavery and Popular Traditions of Freedom in Southern Senegal (1860–1960)

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Legacies of Slavery and Popular Traditions of Freedom in Southern Senegal (1860–1960)

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This study examines the historical linkages that developed between experiences of enslavement, the legacies of slavery, and ideas of freedom before and after abolition in the early twentieth century in an area of southern Senegal known today as the Kolda region. In the Fulfulde language, spoken by the majority of the population, there are several terms and expressions to talk about freedom. The first is ndimaaku, which people tend to equate with nobility and dignity. This is the freedom of the olden days of slavery, when the capacities and qualities of the male or female freeborn stood in stark contrast to those of the slave, and being free meant not having been a slave in the first place. The second term is heɓtaare, i.e., freedom in the sense of tranquility, economic well-being, and a general ease in life and social relations. The expression jeyaal-hoore mun conveys a sense of independence, self-mastery and autonomy, while heɓtugol hoore mun literally means to retrieve one’s head, the center of individual thought and capacity for independent action. Politically, heɓtugol hoore mun stands for the end of colonial rule and the achievement of national independence. Socially, it refers to the emancipation of subordinated groups, like the youth and women, and it describes slaves who freed themselves from their masters. Drawing from archival sources and oral history, this essay attempts to reconstruct the discursive reconfigurations of local ideas of freedom within the context of the political and social changes that affected the Kolda region in the late nineteenth century, the early colonial period, and the years before decolonization. Each historical period had its own actors, dynamics and complexities in which slavery and then legacies of slavery played a role in the definition of freedom and the entitlement of people to its benefits. As demonstrated here, however, liberation paved the way for other forms of subjugation.

Affiliations: 1: University of Milan-Bicocca alice.bellagamba@unimib.it

10.1163/2405836X-00201011
/content/journals/10.1163/2405836x-00201011
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This study examines the historical linkages that developed between experiences of enslavement, the legacies of slavery, and ideas of freedom before and after abolition in the early twentieth century in an area of southern Senegal known today as the Kolda region. In the Fulfulde language, spoken by the majority of the population, there are several terms and expressions to talk about freedom. The first is ndimaaku, which people tend to equate with nobility and dignity. This is the freedom of the olden days of slavery, when the capacities and qualities of the male or female freeborn stood in stark contrast to those of the slave, and being free meant not having been a slave in the first place. The second term is heɓtaare, i.e., freedom in the sense of tranquility, economic well-being, and a general ease in life and social relations. The expression jeyaal-hoore mun conveys a sense of independence, self-mastery and autonomy, while heɓtugol hoore mun literally means to retrieve one’s head, the center of individual thought and capacity for independent action. Politically, heɓtugol hoore mun stands for the end of colonial rule and the achievement of national independence. Socially, it refers to the emancipation of subordinated groups, like the youth and women, and it describes slaves who freed themselves from their masters. Drawing from archival sources and oral history, this essay attempts to reconstruct the discursive reconfigurations of local ideas of freedom within the context of the political and social changes that affected the Kolda region in the late nineteenth century, the early colonial period, and the years before decolonization. Each historical period had its own actors, dynamics and complexities in which slavery and then legacies of slavery played a role in the definition of freedom and the entitlement of people to its benefits. As demonstrated here, however, liberation paved the way for other forms of subjugation.

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/content/journals/10.1163/2405836x-00201011
2017-01-01
2018-01-17

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