About us

Valerio Colosio

Valerio ColosioI am currently a PhD student of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex under the supervision of Prof. Elizabeth Harrison, Prof. Evan Killick, and Prof. Alice Bellagamba. Before starting the doctoral program, I earned a master in cultural and social anthropology at the University of Milan-Bicocca (2009) and a MSc in Anthropology and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science in (2012). I also worked in different NGO projects in Chad between 2010 and 2013. My main research interests are slavery in the Sahel area and its contemporary political legacies, local civil society and its capacity to foster marginal people’s participation to the social and political life.





Research Project: “How Civil Society Deals with the Legacy of Slavery. Marginalization and Inclusion of Slave Descendants in Guera, Chad.”

The aim of this research project is to assess the aftermath of slavery in Chad and its consequences on contemporary political life. It will focus on the Abbassie canton, in the Guera region. Here, after 1910, the French relocated all the liberated slaves. The other groups commonly call the inhabitants of this canton “Yalnas”, that means “the son of the people” in local Arabic. This name emphasizes their previous enslavement. In order to avoid the implicit stigma, they instead chose the name of “Abbassie”, locating their lineage in a Muslin kin, those of Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib, the youngest uncle of the Prophet Mohammed. Starting with this case study, the research will follow two lines of investigation. The first assesses the place of slavery and the slave trade in pre-colonial Chadian history, and the course of abolition: which were the Guera groups/families trading slaves? What kind of connections did the slave trade create between this region and other parts of Sahelian and Saharan Africa? Has the condition of the freed slave and of the people of slave ancestry carried a stigma? The second line of investigation focuses on the political significance of this long-term historical background. Are there civil society organizations that address the legacy of slavery? Have they been able to strengthen the political participation of people of slave ancestry? These are all very relevant issues in Sahel, where the legacy of slavery is strong in many contexts and where the decentralization reforms of the last twenty years have opened new political arenas for slave-descendants. This research will try to bring fresh evidences in order to stimulate discussions on these topics.



Valerio Colosio


Working Papers

SWAB-WPS 2/2015

Title: “Citizens of a chief”. State building, emancipation and control by elites in the Guéra region

Author: Valerio Colosio

Number of pages: 29

Download: SWAB-WPS 2/2015

Despite the recent decentralization reforms, citizenship and freedom are still problematic in many Sahel countries. This paper focuses on the topic of citizenship in the Guéra region of central Chad. It opens with a brief history of the region, from its long days as a slave-reservoir for neighbouring Muslim sultanates until colonization by the French at the beginning of the 20th century. It then focuses on the way the French organised the area administratively, facilitating the creation of a local elite through the customary authority system. This arrangement led to the creation of a system in which people could fully enjoy their rights only under the protection of one of the customary authorities recognized by the state. In this process, people previously labelled as the descendants of slaves were able to gain in status and thus become part of the ruling elites. The post-colonial state suffered a long period of instability that preserved and reinforced this system of governance, which was then further strengthened by the recent policies of decentralization. Three cases are presented in order to explain this system of governance and its effects: the stories of David and Abdel, the case of the land around Kuju village and the resettlement of Ibis village. These cases show how local people’s ability to exert their rights depends on the protection of a recognized customary authority. Nowadays, if they are to fully enjoy their rights, Guéra people need to be “citizens of a chief”. The local elites that emerged during the colonial period are still in political control and individuals need to negotiate with them when building their own life projects.