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Slavery and Race Imagined in Bilād As-Sūdān

Slavery and Race Imagined in Bilād As-Sūdān

(p.43) Chapter Four Slavery and Race Imagined in Bilād As-Sūdān
African Dominion
Michael A. Gomez
Princeton University Press

This chapter looks at the trans-Saharan slave trade and its imbrications with developing notions of race and gender. The fifth/eleventh century transition to reform Islam in the western Sahel was coterminous with an intensification in slaving, generating a lively discourse regarding eligibility, within which notions of race and gender unfolded. The imbrication of slavery, race, and gender would partially inform processes by which West African elites claimed archaic origins in the central Islamic lands, creating distance from the land of their actual birth. From the beginning, external sources associate bilād as-sūdān (land of the blacks) with slaving in an entirely unremarkable manner. The chapter then discusses how slavery's development would help shape views of West African women as well as concepts of blackness. Slaving, together with Islam's continued rise, would constitute the double predicate upon which polity in the region would greatly expand over the next three centuries.

Keywords:   slave trade, race, gender, reform Islam, western Sahel, slaving, slavery, bilād as-sūdān, West African women, blackness

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