The Quest for Honor and Citizenship in Post-Slavery Borgu (Benin)

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Abstract: This contribution explores the relationship between property and citizenship among slaves’ descendants in post-slavery northern Benin. Following an emic approach of both concepts the author examines how the slave is represented as a property, and a lesser citizen. A series of discriminations against people of slave status have resulted from these representations inherited from precolonial slavery societies. Despite the formal abolition of slavery, the processes of independance, the revolutionary regime and even democratisation, little has changed regarding the popular representation of people of slave descent who are experiencing a stratified citizenship. Yet, in various municipalities of Northern Benin, groups of slave status have recently been challenging such representations and discriminations by claiming a moral recognition from both governmental authorities and various ethnic groups to which they are related. Importantly, Gando leaders and followers claim their right to honor, a quality of which they are usually denied to slaves in popular discourses. This entails recognition of Gando people as persons rather than objects or sub-humans and recognition of the ethnic character of their group. This quest for honor and recognition should be understood as a quest for citizenship.