Memories of Slavery in Southern Benin: Between Public Commemorations and Lineage Intimacy

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Joel Noret , Université Libre de Bruxelles
A striking contrast between the profusion of official discourses on the transatlantic slave trade, and pervading silences on local (or African) slavery, is evident in Benin today. On the one hand, periodical public initiatives of commemorations of the Atlantic trade multiply, memorials are erected, and diverse projects (including the local UNESCO's “Slave Route” project) occupy the field of the memory of the Atlantic trade. On the other hand however, the question of the presence of slave descendants in many lineages in southern Benin remains a lineage issue par excellence, a “closed calabash” as a local expression puts it, and the domain of lineage intimacy. Drawing on fieldwork conducted since 2001 in the regions of Abomey and Ouidah, two towns that were at the heart of the slave economy in nineteenth century southern Benin, this paper will explore the dynamics of these different legacies, as well as the current interplay between these various forms of memory.
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