CfP: “Slavery and the Law in West Africa” - Bamako, Mali, 16-18 October 2017

Marie Rodet's picture

International Conference

SOAS, University of London

​Université des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques de Bamako


“Slavery and the Law in West Africa”

Bamako, Mali

16-18 October 2017


The History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London) and the Laboratoire d'études et de Recherches en Droit et Développement Local (LERDDL), Université des Sciences Juridiques et Politiques de Bamako (USJPB), are organizing a joint conference on “Slavery and the Law in West Africa” to take place 16-18 October 2017 in Bamako in partnership with the Institut français de Bamako, the Laboratoire Mixte International (LMI-MACOTER), the Centre international de recherches sur les esclavages (CIRESC) and the Institut de recherche et de développement (IRD).


Today, the history of internal slavery is still a taboo subject in West Africa. Much of the public discourse on slavery in the region focuses on the Atlantic slave trade and the West African coast and tends to render regions of the West African interior completely invisible, such as Mali which remained a crucial crossroads for slave trafficking until the late nineteenth century and today serves as a major transit zone for human trafficking. The issue of contemporary human trafficking, notably in women, children and migrants, is certainly largely debated in West Africa; however, the discussion largely addresses the implementation of international legislation without engaging in a more profound reflection on those practices in the longue durée. Yet, only a detailed legal analysis of the norms and practices of slavery over time can permit a better understanding of the complexities and the anchoring of such phenomena in West Africa with the goal of actually tackling the problem.


The international conference “Slavery and the Law in West Africa” aims to contribute to the identification, evaluation and comparison of the legal norms originating from local traditions and texts produced by slavery and post-slavery societies as well as colonial and postcolonial states in West Africa. But the conference also aims to examine the legal practices, both historical and contemporary, that those societies have developed in this regard. This analysis will allow us to explore today’s legacies of the history of the slave trade and slavery in West Africa, notably in terms of discrimination against the descendants of formerly enslaved populations, but also some of the causes behind the recent resurgence of exploitative practices akin to slavery.


Slavery as an institution and a practice has a long history in West Africa. It was progressively integrated in specific legal frameworks elaborated by successive state configurations since the Middle Ages until the abolition movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Precolonial West African states established legal norms to regulate the enslavement, sale and treatment of slaves. Colonial and postcolonial states have implemented legislation to abolish and criminalise such practices.


In this international conference, the intent is to interrogate the circulation of legal and social discourses on slavery in West Africa and the (dis)continuities of those discourses from the precolonial era until today. This will help us to better identify the impact of such discourses on today’s legislations against slavery and discrimination and their implementation.


We invite junior and senior researchers to submit abstracts for consideration (maximum 250 words) in French or English to the conference organisers: Dr Marie Rodet ( and Professor Bakary Camara ( by 1 July 2017. Proposals must include: Name(s) of presenter(s), institutional affiliation, paper title, email address(es) and the abstract.


The main language of the conference will be French, we will only provide limited French/English translation.