As If Silent and Absent

As If Silent and Absent: Bonds of Enslavement in the Islamic Middle East

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    As If Silent and Absent
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking book reconceptualizes slavery through the voices of enslaved persons themselves, voices that have remained silent in the narratives of conventional history. Focusing in particular on the Islamic Middle East from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, Ehud R. Toledano examines how bonded persons experienced enslavement in Ottoman societies. He draws on court records and a variety of other unexamined primary sources to uncover important new information about the Africans and Circassians who were forcibly removed from their own societies and transplanted to Middle East cultures that were alien to them. Toledano also considers the experiences of these enslaved people within the context of the global history of slavery.The book looks at the bonds of slavery from an original perspective, moving away from the traditional master/slave domination paradigm toward the point of view of the enslaved and their responses to their plight. With keen and original insights, Toledano suggests new ways of thinking about enslavement.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13796-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-8)

    ENSLAVEMENT OF HUMANS BY OTHER HUMANS was a universal phenomenon. It was not peculiar to any culture, nor did it derive from any specific set of shared social values. This book, therefore, is not about exceptionalism, whether Islamic, Ottoman, Arab, Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean. Human bondage in its various forms existed in almost all known historical societies and cultures. Since biblical times, all monotheistic religions have sanctioned slavery, although they did try to mitigate its harsh realities; other belief systems were not free from various forms of enslavement either. That is why this book is neither about assigning blame nor...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Understanding Enslavement as a Human Bond
    (pp. 9-59)

    THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE was the last and greatest Islamic power of the modern era. In many ways, the history of the Middle East between 1516/1517 and 1918 is a chapter in Ottoman history, and Ottoman traces have lingered in the eastern Mediterranean many decades after the demise of the Empire.¹ Some major features of political, social, economic, and cultural life born and developed under the sultans survived well into the twentieth century and arguably are detectable even today. While often viewed in the West as a paragon of conservatism and stagnation, the Ottoman Empire was a complex and fascinating entity...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Leaving a Violated Bond
    (pp. 60-107)

    AT THE END of a coerced migration, the enslaved found themselves in an unfamiliar physical and social environment, entering into new relationships and trying to bond with new slavers. The patterns of interaction within the involuntary relationship of mutual dependence between two unequal partners were being set from the first encounter of a particular slaver and with a particular enslaved person. The dyad was dynamic, tested and renegotiated daily by both sides as the content and the nature of the exchange were being determined or dictated and the boundaries drawn. In the context of unquestionable exploitation, however, there had to...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Turning to the “Patron State” for Redress
    (pp. 108-152)

    THE TERM “PATRON STATE,” which will be used hereafter, calls for some clarification. If “state” is taken to reflect a well-integrated modern entity, much in the way we think of present-day or even late-nineteenth-century European states, then this is not what the Ottoman Empire was during the period reviewed in this book.¹ Rather, it was a “compound” polity, made up of a coalition of the interest groups that formed its imperial elite. That elite was mostly male and Muslim, multiethnic, kul/harem and freeborn, military-administrative-legal-learned, urban and rural, officeholding and propertied, Ottoman-imperial and Ottoman-Local. While ruling a sprawling world empire, members...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Opting for Crime in Order to Survive
    (pp. 153-203)

    THOUGH INITIALLY BASED on the Şeriat, Ottoman criminal law soon developed apart from Islamic principles and penalties.¹ From the 1840s onward, the Tanzimat-state codified existing legislation, developing an Ottoman-based, then a European-influenced, penal system through a combination of codification and case-law evolution. In 1845, the Council of Ministers endorsed the High Court’s view that enslaved persons should be liable to the same penalties as the free subjects of the sultan. This changed the Şeriat-derived practice that slaveholders were responsible for punishing their slaves and brought the state into the slaver-enslaved relationship to protect the enslaved and reduce arbitrary punishment. Enacted...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Taming the Unknown with the Familiar
    (pp. 204-254)

    THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN represents one of the most fascinating and fertile grounds for studying cultural diversity, fusion, complexity, struggle, and coexistence. It was in Ottoman times, and still is today, one of the world’s best laboratories for ethnic studies. The past and recent calamities of Middle Eastern ethnopolitics are only too familiar today, but there is also another side to them all, which calls for scholarly efforts that might, in the long run, defuse some of the intractable political quagmires that make life in this region so frustrating, so painful, but also so humanly engaging and absorbing.

    The main phenomenon...

  11. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 255-262)

    INTEREST IN THE STUDY of enslavement is undergoing one of its cyclical surges. Here, instead of adding another brick of information to the growing edifice of scholarship in the field, a worthy venture in its own right, I revisited and reinterpreted the history of enslavement in the Ottoman Empire during the long nineteenth century. By putting the slaver-enslaved relationship at the center of the interpretation of enslavement, I hoped that new light might be shed also on the study of enslavement outside the Ottoman Empire, mainly but not only in other Islamic societies. The stress on responsible—at times even...

    (pp. 263-270)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 271-273)