About us

Alessandra Brivio

Alessandra BrivioAlessandra Brivio earned a Bachelor in Geography at the University of Genoa, and a master and PhD in cultural and social anthropology at the University of Milan-Bicocca. Her scientific profile is the result of archival and ethnographic research in Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana and Italy that spans over fifteen years. From an initial focus on the study of the so-called ‘traditional religion’ in West Africa, her interests have expanded to include issues of memory, gender, slavery labour migration. Her theoretical and empirical reflection has developed into three directions: the critical analysis of notions such as fetishism, traditional religion, animism and the interplay between different religious traditions in the contemporary African setting; the study of ritual as gateway to an in-depth understanding of African slavery and abolition; transition from slavery to other forms of harsh dependency in colonial Gold Coast, and related transformations in the labour market and gender relationships. Currently, she is Assistant Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Milan-Bicocca.





Research Project: “Women in Post-Emancipation Gold Coast: Gender, Labour and Marginality.”

My project focuses on slave women and freed slave women in post-emancipation Gold Coast (1874). Specifically, I wish to explore how the legacy of slavery, traditional gender relations (customary practices) and colonial policy all contributed to worsening women condition.

Colonial civil servants and British politicians shared little interest in women and they took an ambiguous position regarding the emancipation of slave women. Slave emancipation, in fact, did not only affect slave-master relationships but it also undermined gender relationships. Because of abolition, debt bondage and pawning increased. New forms of personal dependence slowly developed as well as a widespread hegemonic discourse that tolerated domestic slavery and female dependency inside the traditional institution of marriage. The aims of this project are: to  recover women’s voice both inside and outside archives; to compare Gold Coast with Togo, by carrying out research in the National Archive of Lomé; to explore marriage, concubinage and the strategies that women used to back out of traditional forms of personal dependence and coercion; to question the abolition of slavery in light of two mutually-reinforcing outcomes: the intensified exploitation of women through the institution of concubinage and the rise of prostitution.