SOAS University of London

SOAS academic receives UKRI/GCRF funding to support cutting-edge research on slavery legacies and forced migration in Mali

16 September 2020

Dr Marie Rodet, Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa, has received funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) for her project in partnership with The University of Copenhagen, The University of Bamako and the Malian NGOs Donkosira and TEMEDT which will look at the most invisibilised historical and contemporary slavery-related protracted displacements taking place within rural areas of the Kayes region in Mali. Dr Marie Rodet’s project is among six new projects to be awarded by the UKRI that focus on development-based approaches to protracted displacement.

Descent-based slavery and its legacies continue to prevail in most communities of the west and south of Mali today, because of the lack of a protecting legal framework, populations victims of slavery-related violence often have little choice but to escape to more 'hospitable' areas, having been systematically barred from land access in their home village by the local elite. Those populations with ascribed slave status are the poorest and the most vulnerable populations in the Sahel. In many cases, these displaced, mostly agricultural populations continue to live in precarious conditions because of continuing marginalization and stigmatization in new host communities, with risks of new forms of servitude strongly overlapping with the legacies of historical slavery. Slavery-related protracted displacements in West Africa have been largely overlooked in the development and humanitarian practice and reporting. This is certainly a major omission in view of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Dr Marie Rodet said:

“In such a critical situation as the one prevailing today in Mali, working with populations who are victims of descent-based slavery is thus an urgent equitable development issue. The research programme aims not only to analyse and map the long history of slavery-related protracted displacements in the Kayes region, but more importantly it proposes concrete measures to redress this unacknowledged long-term crisis situation by sensitising the local and national government in Mali at every level to anticipate and efficiently manage these 'fugitive' displacements of people with ascribed slave status.”

The transformative aspect of this research relies on bridging the gaps between practitioners and scholars in and with the surveyed communities.

Dr Rodet has also received UKRI/GCRF funding for a related research project, ‘De-marginalising frontier communities in West Africa: action research, local knowledge, and resilience against natural disasters and ecological stress.’

The aims of the research programme is to generate a better understanding of historical and contemporary resilience strategies adopted by vulnerable and marginalised groups, especially women and the descendants of formerly enslaved peoples, to respond to ecological stresses and natural disaster in frontier communities in Mali (Kayes), Senegal (Tambacounda and Kedougou) and Guinea (Upper-Guinea).

Additionally, it aims to enhance the efforts geared to achieve a more equitable sustainable development in West Africa, to facilitate local actors’ involvement and leadership in community-based resilience action planning and organisational learning, and integrate their experiences and knowledge across multiple scales for long-lasting development gains. 

Dr Rodet will work closely with colleagues from the University of Sussex, Sciences Po Bordeaux and Malian NGO Donkosira. 

Credit: Moussa Kalapo

Photo credit: Moussa Kalapo

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