[C5120] Thematic Conversation-Global Histories of Slavery in the Premodern Middle East and Beyond

Created by Craig Perry
Friday, 11/16/18 4:00pm


The Thematic Conversation "Global Histories of Slavery in the Premodern Middle East and Beyond" joins discussants whose expertises range from North Africa to India. Three of the participants have collaborated at MESA for consecutive years. Other participants will be attending their first MESA meeting in order to join the face-to-face conversation. Each discussant is linked to another by some recent, forthcoming, and/or near final stage publication that focuses on the history of slavery (evidence provided to Mark Lowder via email). MESA attendees are Interested in the topic of premodern slavery as was evident during the 2017 annual meeting when a standing-room only crowd assembled to participate in the lively Roundtable "Histories of Slavery in Medieval Islamic Societies." We look forward to growing this interest even further by proposing a multi-year framework for scholarly collaboration. In 2018, in keeping with the meeting's emphasis on the global Middle East, we are including scholars who focus on slavery in the Arab heartlands and beyond in colonial South Asia. With this expanded geographic and chronological range, we expect to discover further how the practices of slavery found in our respective contexts are mutually illuminating. Yet, we will also use our conversation to sharpen our understanding of how slavery differs across time and space. For example, is slavery in the premodern Islamic Middle East unique in the degree of social mobility it afforded the enslaved as many scholars argue? Our investigation will not only focus on the "content" of slavery, but also upon the methodological challenges posed by our respective source bases. To what extent, for instance, does the evidence allow us to center the experiences and personhood of the enslaved in historical narratives? Further, we will be explicit about what the study of slavery can contribute to the wider sub-fields of which we are a part. We will also invite scholars working on slavery of all time periods and locations to join our conversation at the annual meeting. Our working plan for the Thematic Conversation in 2019 and 2020 centers on two broad goals. In 2019 the focus will be on the opportunities for integrating the study of Middle Eastern slavery into the scholarship and teaching of the emerging field of global medieval studies. In 2020, we will present and discuss plans for building and, ultimately, funding collaborative research structures that aim to harness the potential of digital innovations for the study of premodern textual corpora related to slavery.