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Debates of Slavery/Slaves vs. Serfs

by: Erika Ladd

Debates of Slavery/Slaves vs. Serfs HIST 005

Marketplace > Howard University > History > HIST 005 > Debates of Slavery Slaves vs Serfs
Erika Ladd

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These notes discuss the different debates on slavery in Africa and the coastal states. They also discuss the difference between slaves and serfs.
Intro to Black Diaspora 1
Neil Vaz
Class Notes
Africa, African Studies
25 ?




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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Erika Ladd on Wednesday September 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 005 at Howard University taught by Neil Vaz in Spring 2015. Since its upload, it has received 4 views. For similar materials see Intro to Black Diaspora 1 in History at Howard University.

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Date Created: 09/14/16
Origin of the Subject • UNESCO convened The First International Congress of African Historians in Tanzania in 1965. • African American Historian by the name of Joseph E. Harris participated on a panel at the congress entitled “The African Diaspora or the African Abroad" • Africans abroad were trying to free themselves from European colonizers in their Independence movement at this time. • The civil rights movement was also happening in the USA at the time. • British West Indies were also trying to free themselves in the Caribbean • African Diaspora was a way to free their mind to tell their story, a historical subject. • In 1979, Harris and some of his colleagues at Howard University convened the First African Diaspora Studies Institute (FADSI). • In 1981, came the Second African Diaspora Studies Institute (SADSI) at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. • In 1982, Harris published the volume entitled, “Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora” where he defines diaspora as: 1. “the voluntary and forced dispersion of Africans at different periods in history and in several directions; 2. the emergence of a cultural identity abroad without losing the African base, either spiritually or physically; 3. the psychological or physical return to the homeland, Africa.” (ridding themselves of things that reminded them of slavery) Harris (2003) • In 2003, in his article entitled, “Expanding the scope of Africa Diaspora Studies,” Harris’ definition of diaspora evolved. • “The Africans diaspora subsumes a triadic relationship— African as homeland, Africans and their descendants, and the adopted residence/home abroad—built on many years of voluntary and involuntary dispersions, with secondary and tertiary migrations as well." • "In addition, this diaspora has the following characteristics: 1. collective memories and myths about Africa as the homeland or place of origin. 2. the tradition of a physical and psychological return. 3. a common socioeconomic condition 4. a transnational network 5. and a sustained resistance to Africans presence abroad and an affirmation of their human rights." • Summary: Harris has always seemed primarily concerned with connecting black populations around the world with Africa. Paul Gilroy (1993) • He was more concerned with "routes over roots". • He argues against Harris and the idea of African Diaspora in his book, “The Black Atlantic" • "In opposition to both of these nationalist or ethnically absolute approaches, I was to develop the suggestion that cultural historians could take the Atlantic as one single, complex unit of analysis in their discussions of the modern world and use it to produce an explicitly transnational and intercultural perspective…the idea of the black Atlantic can be used to show that there are other claims to it which can be based on the structure of the African diaspora into the western hemisphere." • He wanted to study how blacks have influenced everybody, and not just the African part, but things they picked up along the way. Colin Palmer • "Methodologically speaking, the study of the modern African diaspora should, in my opinion, begin with Africa. The African continent—the ancestral homeland—must be central to any informed analysis and understanding of the dispersal of its peoples…Scholars, arguably, cannot and should not define themselves as diaspora specialists if their area of expertise is confined to one society, or worse, to one small corner of that society.” (“Defining Diaspora,” 1998) • He sided more with Harris than with Gilroy. They look at Haitian revolution because 2/3rd of their population were from African origins and brought their own ideals. • Haiti example: The people who led the Haiti revolution adopted their ideas from the French revolution. Black atlantic definition Slaves • Slaves were the chattel of their masters • Dependent of food, clothing, and shelter • Owned nothing • Lived near or with their master • It is very unlikely to be found in the fragmented communal societies that existed on the west coast of Africa at the time of the arrival of the Europeans. Serfs • Self-supporting • Allotted plots of land. Can sell their own food to make extra money. • Lived in their own villages. Slavery and serfdom or any other servile institution of labor are more likely to be found in societies with strong centralized governments such as empires and large kingdoms, which are hierarchical by nature. The Empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai of the Sahel were much more likely to have been societies with slaves or serfs before the arrival of Europeans compared to their coastal counterparts. Decentralized States fight against the Predator States • Martin Klein • Walter Hawthorne • Andrew Hubbell • They all believe that in many cases decentralized state were able to defend themselves against enslavement by the predatory states. • The way that the predatory states were able to penetrate and enslave those in decentralized states was through agents.


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