The Afterlives of Contract and Enslavement: Narratives on Indentured Labour between Cape Verde and S. Tomé and Príncipe

36 meses

This project provides the first comprehensive study on the entangled cultural memories of plantation' indentured labour under Portuguese colonialism in Cape Verde and S. Tomé and Príncipe, from the 20th century onwards. GHOST addresses a gap in global plantation studies, predominantly focused on the Americas, by exploring how and why the narratives of indentured labour, known as contrato, change over time in these two African archipelagos. Drawing on original and detailed empirical research, GHOST analysis is based on a diverse set of visual, oral and written sources – among others, literary texts, music, cinema, interviews, newspapers articles, photographs, letters, laws, reports (and other official documentation) – through which the project will trace the multiple and sometimes divergent Cape Verdean and Santomean narratives linked to plantation work and contrato, how they are mobilized, and their changing symbolic and political uses through time. The originality of this project derives from a ground-breaking interdisciplinary approach to colonial indentured labour underdeveloped experiences using the conceptual framework of haunting. It argues for three distinct readings of ghosts and hauntings: as spectral agents – or the return of the dead as spirits – that, by transcending fixed boundaries of time and space, through ritual possession or other mechanisms, can disrupt dominant narratives of the past; as a rhetorical device for addressing colonial violence and its persistent legacies in the present, discussing notions of historical injustice and representation; and as an active process of ghosting concrete subjects, regarded as unworthy of social recognition, by disqualifying and dehumanizing them. Suggesting a move towards decolonising haunting, the project, interdisciplinary in nature, enables a critical dialogue between memory studies, cultural history, and postcolonial theories, contributing to contemporary efforts of decolonising colonial-imperial pasts.
GHOST is funded by the European Research Executive Agency under the European Union’s Horizon Europe Programme Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Postdoctoral Fellowships - Global Fellowships (no. 101105812).


By the end of the project, GHOST will have produced results that expand epistemological knowledge regarding the role of haunting in (post)colonial contexts. It will also create spaces, beyond hegemonic narratives, for a more critical and democratic analysis of indentured labour. Its core expected results include:

3 scientific articles
1 monograph
1 Advanced Training Course
1 Podcast series “Haunting History: (Re)telling colonial plantations labour”.
1 Workshop “Haunting and women’ indentured labour experiences”
1 Summer School
1 Policy Brief
1 Database



University of Cabo Verde and CACAU – House of Arts, Creation, Environment and Utopia, São Tomé e Príncipe.

haunting, postcolonial memory, plantations labour, portuguese colonialism
Funding Entity
Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions / Horizon Europe Framework Programme (HORIZON), European Commission