In the twenty years since the publication of Florence Bernault’s edited volume A History of Prison and Confinement in Africa, the study of Africa’s penal systems has expanded tremendously. This scholarship has not only provided a clearer picture of penal ideas and institutions on the African continent across multiple time periods and locations, it has also offered insights into wider questions about the relationship between punishment, colonialism, and decolonization as well as the global circulation of penal techniques. This special issue aims to analyze African developments on their own terms and in relation to imperial and global narratives of punishment and penological networks as well as to integrate the fields of history, sociology, and criminology more closely, highlighting how theoretical insights of sociology and criminology can inform historical research. By presenting multiple works together in a special issue, we seek to emphasize the value of Africanist historical approaches and methods for interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary research, and to highlight the contribution that studies of African penal systems can make to advancing understanding of global trends in punishment, showing how research on punishment in Africa not only engages with theories from the Global North, but also generates theories that reshape wider approaches to the study of punishment.
Topics for consideration could include (but are not restricted to): indigenous forms of punishment; colonial and postcolonial prisons; capital and corporal punishment; political imprisonment; forced labour; and detention camps.
We are interested in articles undertaking detailed case-study analysis of key historical trends, showcasing different methodological and disciplinary approaches. We invite submissions on all regions of Africa, and its relations with broader global or international developments in punishment and penology.
The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.
The Centre for Imperial and Global History offers internationally-recognised supervision with geographical coverage from 30 staff across African, Asian (including Chinese), Middle Eastern, North American, Latin American, European, Imperial, and Global history from early-modern to contemporary eras. We have strong inter-disciplinary links with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences at Exeter, particularly with the Centre for War, State and Society and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. The Centre has particular research interests in:
Child soldiers in Africa are often assumed to be a new phenomenon, linked to the spread of so-called ‘new wars’ and ‘new barbarism’ in the civil wars which swept across the continent in the 1990-2000s. The defining images of the child soldier in today’s humanitarian-inflected discourse are those of the ragged young rebel boy in flip flops with an AK-47 in downtown Monrovia, or the kidnapped Acholi children seized from their families by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. New research, however, is beginning to challenge this assumption, and the idea that child soldiers are always either simply ‘victims’ or ‘perpetrators’.
There is in fact a much longer and deeper history of child soldiering in Africa than has previously been acknowledged. Our seminar groups have been exploring this history by analysing evidence for African children’s recruitment into British forces in the Second World War, looking in particular at the memoirs of former child soldiers who fought in Egypt, Burma and India. Although these memoirs need to be treated carefully, as they are adult recollections of children’s experiences, they reveal striking differences between contemporary and historical accounts of children’s experiences of war. Continue reading “Rethinking Children’s Experiences of War: African Child Soldiers in the Second World War”→