About us

Alice Bellagamba

Alice BellagambaAlice Bellagamba is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropologist at the University of Milan-Bicocca, and a specialist in African Studies. She graduated in Philosophy at the University of Turin, and earned her PhD in socio-cultural anthropology at the same institution. In 2004-2005, she was Alexander Von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Bayreuth, and in 2011-2012 EURIAS Senior Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Her long- term research experience in The Gambia and Senegal has resulted into several publications on memory, colonialism, the legacies of slavery, and the history of international migrations. Her comparative work together with Sandra Greene (Cornell University) and Martin Klein (University of Toronto) on sources for the study of African slavery and slave trade has brought to the publication of three collective volumes (African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade. Vol. 1: The Sources, Cambridge University Press 2013 ; Vol. 2: Essays on Sources and Methods, Cambridge University Press 2016 ; The Bitter Legacy: African Slavery Past and Present, Markus Weiner 2013 ), and another is underway.





Research Project: “Emancipation Struggles and Legacies of Domination in Southern Senegal.”

Regularly, in the southern Senegalese region of Kolda, the legacies of slavery shade through the political realm. It happened during the 2009 and 2014 local elections, as much as in the late colonial period, when people of slave ancestry sought emancipation from the domination of the colonizers and their local agents, the chiefs and the traders. Which was the role of slavery and the slave trade in the history of this part of Senegal? Loaded of meanings that have shifted in content and use over time, the local terms for freeman and slave evoke a long history of antagonism and mutuality, conflict and collaboration that I shall reconstruct through comparison with neighbouring Gambia and Guinea Bissau territories. The starting point is the second half of the nineteenth century, when a military leadership of slave ancestry gained control over the lands that stretched from the middle Gambia River to Rio Corubal in contemporary Guinea Bissau. This short-lived kingdom is known as ‘Fuladu’, that in Mandinka means ‘the land of the Fula’. Oral traditions depict its establishment in terms of a liberation struggle later curbed down by colonization. The wars that created Fuladu enhanced the upward social mobility of slaves and slave descendants. Colonization, instead, restored the political, economic and social superiority of the nobles. Through archival and ethnographic research, I hope to expand the knowledge of a part of the region of Kolda, the department of Velingara, so far overlooked in the study of Fuladu. This area is crossed by two important rivers (Gambia, Kayanga) and close to three international borders (Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau). Economically, the majority of people live out of agriculture and husbandry. The themes that I shall explore include: the historical construction of the category of ‘slave descendant’; the changing role of state/non-state actors in fixing social hierarchies and creating favorable conditions for labour exploitation; politics and the advantage of slave ancestry; shifting meanings of emancipation; genealogical purity and strategies of social bordering that shape individual selves and life trajectories.