The program aims to answer the following research questions:

Under what circumstances have protracted slavery-related rural displacements occurred over the past 100 years?
To what extent has the issue of land access been the determining factor in these migratory movements?
Why and how have these movements to escape slavery been so invisibilised?
Why and how has this lack of visibility of slavery-related rural displacements intensified the precariousness of the populations and the risks that they will suffer from other forms of exploitation?
To what extent can the current legal and policy framework be used, strengthened or modified to ensure autonomy and sustainable livelihoods for these communities?
Research Modules

Illegibility/Invisibilisation of Protracted Displacement, Camps and Borders. This module focuses on identifying locations of forced relocation of populations assigned to “slave” status in Western Mali over the past 100 years (1909-2019). We explore how the new settlements of these “fugitive” populations were invisibilised, on the one hand, and how they were established on existing and reactivated socio-economic boundaries, on the other. These boundaries have allowed the region’s ruling class to maintain social hierarchies based on the ideology of slavery, particularly with respect to land rights and management, despite a long history of resistance, rebellion and resilience on the part of these “fugitive” communities.

Forced displacement and the risk of new forms of servitude. This module addresses notions of violence, vulnerability, and long-term fugitive displacement as mobility practices that reflect the protracted suffering that many individuals locally categorized as “slave” status continue to experience. Some are unable to escape their condition and remain in bondage, particularly women. Through an ethnographic approach and qualitative sociological methods, this module will further analyze how, despite displacement, control and ownership claims over women’s bodies by the dominant class continue, for example through domestic labor or sexual abuse.

Policy framework, advocacy, the role of the diaspora and solutions for sustainable livelihoods. Combining policy analysis, ethnography, and qualitative methods, this module will examine the links between community empowerment, the political and legal context, legal access to land, and advocacy through campaigns and other awareness-raising initiatives. This policy and development module is intended to have a concrete impact, including the production of policy papers and the training of paralegals. It should allow SlaFMig to assess the potential for scaling up and replicating the project (within the identified limits), both in similar contexts and on a larger scale.