History and origins of the Slafnet Project
The SLAFNET project arose from different initiatives all over Africa and Europe that emerged in the early 2000’s.
For about ten years, the IRD, via URMIS built strong partnerships with Kenyan (MUSK and CUEA) and Ethiopian (AAU) institutions, and initiated research programs on slavery studies.
URMIS was already a partner of the CNRS via the Associated International Laboratory CIRESC (International Centre for Research on Slaveries), that headed the EU programme EURESCL (2007-2012 studying the legacies of slavery in the construction of European identities. The CNRS (CIRESC) has been collaborating closely through research and training programmes for many years with UCAD (CARTE – African Centre for Research on Slave Trade and Slavery in Dakar, Senegal). The Department of African Studies and Anthropology at University of Birmigham had also a strong working alliance with the UCAD (CARTE). The University Yaoundé 1 (LETS) in Cameroun had already established partnerships with UCAD (CARTE) as well as the University of Nantes (UNant, Centre de Recherches en Histoire Internationale et Atlantique – CRHIA) through different programs related to Slavery Heritage.
In February 2015, the University of Mauritius (UoM) organized a conference on the occasion of the commemoration of the 180th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Mauritius to which members of the project from France (CNRS, IRD) and Kenya (NMK) contributed. In October 2014, was held a conference entitled “Slavery in Africa: Past, Present, Legacies” at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi. This three-day’s conference brought together more than 60 scholars, all over the world and represented an important moment on Slavery studies in Africa.
This event broached topics that were previously considered taboo subjects and encouraged to bridge gaps, to stimulate dialogue and to break new grounds in research. Its success was owed to a European-African collaboration of different scholars and institutions from France, UK, Senegal, Kenya, Cameroon.
In Fall 2015, the IRD organized a workshop that added to its network other scholars and institutions working in different parts of Africa and Europe, including the Hiob Ludolf Centre for Ethiopian Studies (HLCES, UHAM), which is tightly related to AAU and also involved in scientific activities and programs concerning the history and the memory of slavery in Ethiopia. The October 2015’ workshop had for main objective to reinforce this emerging scientific network of research on Slave Trade and Slaveries in order to look for opportunities of funding at an international level. The elaboration of the SLAFNET proposal allowed us to link with Bath Spa University in the UK to build programmes on the legacies of the British Empire that will enhance collaborations with the French institutions (UNant, CNRS) as well as with African partners (LETS, CUEA, UoM). Lastly, thanks to the involvement of the FLUL, UNant, UCAD and UoM, we intend to reinforce the participation of Lusophone regions in the project, in both the Atlantic and the Western Indian Ocean.
On the strength of this history and these collaborations, the overall objective of SLAFNET is to establish a scientific network of several institutions and research groups from Europe and Africa on the field of slavery studies. It aims at focusing mutual efforts of 13 research groups with extended and complementary competences in their respective research fields and at gathering multidisciplinary expertise in slavery-related issues by encouraging the exchange of young and senior researchers from both continents.