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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:We must overcome: genealogy and evolution of female slavery in West Africa
Author:Robertson, ClaireISNI
Periodical:Journal of West African History (ISSN 2327-1876)
Geographic term:West Africa
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/jwestafrihist.1.1.0059
Abstract:Women's slavery continues in the contemporary world, especially in West Africa. This article seeks a history useful for abolishing contemporary slavery and reviews the evolution of scholarly perspectives on women and slavery in West Africa in order to determine the roots of contemporary slavery and put forms of contemporary slavery on the same analytical plane as historical ones. The literature on women and slavery in West Africa challenges much conventional wisdom about slavery by showing that lineage rather than chattel slavery was common; most slaves kept in West Africa were female (with local and temporal variations); the African demand for women slaves determined the skewed sex ratio in the Atlantic slave trade; women slaves were more highly valued than men because of their productive and reproductive functions; free and freed women were preeminent in owning and using women slaves; women slaves contributed to culture and identity formation in critical ways; for most women slaves, harems were more about domestic drudgery than sex; and the abolition of slavery failed for women slaves more than men for reasons relevant to the continuation of slavery for women and children in West Africa. Authoritarian family structures and colonialism subordinated West African women, and that subordination has been exacerbated by a world capitalist economy that continues the demand for slaves used in West Africa and elsewhere. If slave status historically has often been marked by race or ethnicity, contemporary slavery is gendered female in most societies. Notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]