Female Slaves in Cairo's medieval underworld: Gendered aspects of Criminality and Bondage in the Mamluk Period

By Carl F. Petry
Submitted to Session P4897 (Slave Women in Muslim Society: Their Portrayal as Singers and Poets, Criminals and Concubines, 2017 Annual Meeting
Hist
Egypt;
13th-18th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Female Slaves in Cairo's medieval underworld: Gendered aspects of Criminality and Bondage in the Mamluk Period
The presentation will consider incidents by female slaves that were depicted as criminal or transgressive in narratives written by historians of the Mamluk period in Egypt. Categories of such (alleged) activity included: theft, fornication, prostitution, homicide, espionage and religious deviance. The narratives themselves offer diverse nuances about the motives for criminal activity attributed to persons who shared the common tie of bondage to individuals who held power relationships over them. Although the narratives depicting these incidents were uniformly composed and/or transmitted by commentators rather than by the alleged offenders (actual logs registering crimes tried in courts are not available for this period), they frequently offer specific details (date/time, place, description, penalty) as well as biases and character assessments lacking in terse court records. These nuances thus suggest a variety of circumstances in which such persons could challenge, mitigate or evade these relationships. The penalties inflicted on them indicate the gravity of their actions as perceived by legal authorities--if the accused offenders were successfully apprehended.