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Power and Agency in Francophone Sub-Saharan African Life Narratives of Slavery in the Modern Era

By Sadie Skinner

Abstract

Up until now, there has been no slave narrative tradition to speak of in the French speaking world; francophone slave narratives are deemed virtually non-existent or have yet to be discovered. This study thus seeks to break new ground by arguing that a modern slave narrative tradition is beginning to emerge in the French speaking world. In order to demonstrate this, it brings into focus two life narratives - one written by a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Badjoko 2005), the other composed by a former domestic slave in Paris (Akofa 2000). \ud As this study will reveal, leading figures from the field of slavery studies (Bales 1999, 2005; Patterson 1982) have played a pivotal role in moving beyond traditional understandings of slavery and thus have paved the way for this study to qualify Akofa‘s and Badjoko‘s intra-textual experiences as slavery. At the same time, through close reading of these two life narratives in conjunction with relevant strands of critical theory, this study will demonstrate that a greater nuance is at work than existing definitions of slavery can account for. \ud More specifically, this study pays close attention to what these texts reveal about power and agency in situations of enslavement. It maintains that in depicting their intra-textual selves as acting within the parameters of their constraint, both writers call into question the assumption that somebody who is enslaved is a passive victim devoid of agency. Taking this argument a step further, this study concludes by investigating power and agency at an extra-textual level. It posits that while Akofa and Badjoko find themselves to some extent constrained by the demands of writing for a French publishing house, both writers manage to exercise varying degrees of agency

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:lra.le.ac.uk:2381/8199

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