Toni Smith

Toni Smith

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

PhD title: Colonial attitudes towards women, slavery and gender-violence in the Congo (1900-1930s)
Supervisors: Dr Benedetta Rossi and Professor Sabine Lee
PhD African Studies


My work examines colonial framings of gender violence, marriage and slavery in the Belgian Congo during the first decades of the twentieth century. Through archival research I explore how Congolese sexualities were instrumentalised to justify colonial control. Colonialists were keen to highlight Congolese gender relations that they deemed oppressive to women while minimising examples of colonial sexual abuse and exploitation. How did these discourses evolve and shift as they interacted with international anti-slavery initiatives and activism? In what ways did Congolese people navigate colonial and missionary moralities? This research builds on scholarship focusing on slavery and sexuality, gender and imperial power. It aims to provide further insight into how African women were uniquely impacted by colonial policy in the Congo territory.

This work is funded by the Conjugal Slavery in War research partnership and the University of Birmingham.