"Dangerous vagabonds" : resistance to slave emancipation and the colony of Senegal
Hardy, Robin Aspasia
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In 1848, when slavery was abolished across greater France, slavery remained virtually intact in the French colony of Senegal on the west coast of Africa. Slavery continued to be practiced in the colony and in its expanding borderlands until at least 1905, when this study ends. This thesis challenges traditional interpretations of illicit slavery in Senegal by demonstrating the power that French imperial culture played in the problem of continued captivity. While post-emancipation slavery in the colony was due to economic and logistic pressures in West Africa, as well as a strong indigenous tradition of forced labor, this study will show that it was also true that inherent factors within the culture of French colonialism made abolishing the institution exceedingly difficult. This thesis examines three aspects of French imperial culture after 1848 that mitigated slave freedom in Senegal: the views of race and slavery maintained by Senegal's influential métis (mixed-race) population; French cultural assessments of the aptitude and capabilities of West Africans; and a trend within French political culture to deny metropolitan rights to the colonized--a phenomenon that intensified in far-flung French territories that were not completely under French control, and where few whites resided. An examination of each of these themes will lead to a deeper understanding of the persistence of slavery in Senegal between 1848 and 1905, revealing greater nuance within the French imperial project overall.